2013: In Review
I could do a reflection on my 2013 but I felt this to be too mundane. Most Particularly because I didn't manage to accomplish nearly as much as I wanted nor enough to take up an entire post.Instead, I leave you with this quote from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, in order to reflect on everything.
“The fact that you have atoms and that they assemble in such a willing manner is only part of what got you here. To be here now, alive in the 21st century, and smart enough to know it, you also had to be the beneficiary of an extraordinary string of biological good fortune. Survival on earth is a surprisingly tricky business. Of the billions and billions of species of living thing that have existed since the dawn of time. Most, 99.999 percent are now longer around. Life on earth, you see, is not only brief but also dismaying tenuous. It is a curious feature that we come a planet that is so good at promoting life, but even better at extinguishing it.
The average species on life lasts for only about four millions years. If you wish to be around four billion years, you have to be as fickle as the atoms that made you. You must be prepared to change everything about you; size, shape, color, species affiliation, everything, and to do so repeatedly. That’s much easier said than done. Because the process of change is random. To get from protoplasmal primordial atomic globule, as the Gilbert and Sullivan song put it, to sentient up-right modern human, has required you to mutate new traits in a precisely timely manner, over and over again for an exceedingly long while. For various periods over the last 3.8 Billion years, you have abhorred oxygen and then doted on it. Grown fins and limbs and jaunty sails, laid eggs, flicked the air with a forked tongue, been sleek, been furry, lived under ground, lived in trees, been as big as a deer and as small as a mouse, and a million things more. The tiniest deviation from any of these evolutionary shifts, and you could now be licking algae off cave walls or lolling walrus-like on some stony shore, or disgorging air from a blow-hole in the top of your head before diving sixty-feet for a mouthful of delicious sandworms.
Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time in-memorial to a favored evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely, make that miraculously, fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 Billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your fore-bearers on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected by its life’s quest to deliver a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner, at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only sequence of hereditary combinations that could result, eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly, in you.”