Monthly Archives: November 2009

If I Was God. . .

I had this idea for a reoccurring theme:  If I Was God (or a god, for any polytheists), what things would I change or fix in creation?  Since I’m a lowbrow guy, some stuff will be pretty crude.

For starters, I’d fix a minor problem that anyone who works shift work would understand; If I Was God I would fix it so that regardless of the 16 hours between the end of your shift and the start of your shift on the following day, that your work environment would remain as you left it.  This would be a very exciging concept.  For diligent workers who leave their work area in tip-top shape for the next shift, these workers would return to a work area in tip-top shape 16 hours later.  Their diligence and thoughtfulness toward their coworkers would be rewarded.  For slugs who don’t clean up, return tools to their homes, and generally leave a big mess for the next shift–well, that big mess would be staring them in the face the next day when they returned to work.  And then they’d have to clean in up before they could start that day’s projects. 

This may seem like a waste of godlike powers, but since this is just fantasy I’m going to have fun with it: Just once I’d like the day crew guy or gal who always leaves me a 1/2 full bucket of filthy water and a smelly mop get a taste of his or her own medicine. (though they would probably insist they leave stuff messy because they are left a big mess by the overnight crew.  *SIGH*  Seems that, for all our grumbling, few humans have actually absorbed the adage ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’)

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The Poetry of Big history

I picked up a book called Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present, by Cynthia Stokes Brown at the library last week and can’t put it down.  As a non-scientific thinker, this kind of book, an epic, sweeping overview of how scientists think we got here that is written is right up my alley.  It’s written  in a very accessible, non-jargoney, evocative, and almost poetic prose and reminds me of another seminal book for lay people: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

This passage from Chapter 2: Living Earth, in Brown’s book blew me away:

We are matter and energy, like the universe.  Our cells, composed of atoms made in explosions of stars, maintain a hydrogen- and carbon-rich environment, like that of Earth when life began.  Carbon combines with five other elements to form the chemical common denominators of all life, accounting for 99 percent of the dry weight of all living things, including us.

Every human life begins as a single cell, replaying the fact that all life on Earth began as a single cell.  The first cells were bacteria, and our bodies contain ten times more bacteria cells than animal cells.  our cells contain three structures (mitochondria, plastids, and ) that evolved as separate bacteria before they were incorporated into our more complex cells.

Our blood still has the salt content of seawater; we cry and sweat seawater, testimony to the fact that all life began in the seas.  Our children grow and develop for nine months in a watery environment; no life on Earth can develop its initial stages except in a wet place.  As embryos, our babies still develop temporary gills–which look like tiny scars behind an embryos’ ears–as a step toward developing lungs for breathing.  Our bodies, like the surface of the planet, are 65 percent water.  We belong to Earth in the deepest and most fundamental ways.

Wow.

And now, because I started humming it as I was typing this post, here’s Jeff Tweedy singing a Woody Guthrie poem he turned into a song: Airline to Heaven.

From Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue 2

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