Gaia and the Octopus

Mimic Octopus by Steve Childs  from Wikimedia Commons

Mimic Octopus by Steve Childs
from Wikimedia Commons

“Gaia is a tough bitch.”

So observed the late biologist Lynn Margulis, who formulated the Gaia hypothesis in collaboration with James Lovelock. Margulis was warning us not to sentimentalize Gaia as “an Earth goddess for a cuddly, furry human environment …” Despite humanity’s perverse determination to destroy biodiversity, Gaia will eventually bounce back—but “probably in a world devoid of people.”

But if human beings go the proverbial “way of the dodo,” which animal might take our place as the planet’s dominant species? Not that there has to be a dominant species, of course. After her dismal experience with us, Gaia might prefer to do without one altogether.

Even so, Pat’s and my money is on octopuses. We’ve been running into story after story about their vast dexterity, sensitivity, intelligence, and grace. With excellent eyesight, light-sensitive skin, and suckers equipped with ultra-keen taste receptors, octopuses undoubtedly enjoy a far more vivid sensory experience of the world than we clunky humans do.

Octopuses are also tool users that have been observed turning broken coconut shells into “mobile homes.” And they are infinitely resourceful, even capable of deliberate trickery. Once at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the staff noticed that its live crabs were mysteriously disappearing at night. It turned out that a red octopus had secretly entered the facility by stowing away on the back of a sponge. The creature hid in a tank during the day, then by night sneaked out of water and across the aquarium floor to the crab tank, where it partook of tasty crab dinners.

Pat and I are most dazzled by the abilities of the mimic octopus, with its ability to swiftly assume the shapes of algae-encrusted rocks, sea snakes, venomous sole, sea anemones, lionfish, flatfish, jellyfish, and an untold repertoire of other forms. Moreover, mimic octopus’s choice of shapes requires highly sophisticated decision-making. This video takes our breath away:

As Caspar Henderson puts it in an excerpt from his new book, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary, the octopus has

a mind that calculates and even, perhaps, possesses a form of awareness. In some ways, their abilities surpass ours.

Considering that the nearest common ancestor of humans and cephalopods disappeared some 540 million years ago, Pat and I can’t help but wonder—why isn’t the octopus now the world’s dominant species instead of Homo sapiens? Virtual reality pioneer and octopus-fancier Jaron Lanier has asked the same question:

[They] taunt us with clues about the potential future of our species…. [Their] raw brain power seems to have more potential than the mammalian brain…. By all rights, [they] should be running the show and we should be their pets.

The explanation is painfully simple, as Henderson explains,

The Common octopus typically lives less than a year and even the largest species only live three to five years …. As a consequence, they do not get a chance to pass on what they learn to the next generation. Cephalopods have no culture: no childhood in which they are guided by their parents. They must start from scratch in every new generation.

But this might not be the status quo forever. In less-explored ocean depths, cephalopods are now thought to live markedly longer than they do in more familiar waters. Recently, a deep-sea octopus was observed protecting her eggs for an astonishing 4.5 years. As science writer Megan Gannon puts it,

Not only is that four times longer than most shallow-water octopuses even live, it’s also the longest brooding period known of any animal on the planet, elephants and emperor penguins included ….

“In the deep sea, we have so much to discover,” commented zoologist Janet Voight.

Indeed, might some new type of culture already be bourgeoning in uncharted depths? And if Gaia, tough bitch that she is, soon relegates the Homo sapiens nuisance to the ash heap of natural history, mightn’t she summon forth cephalopods to be the new Stewards of the Earth?

A Magic Circle

Why do we lowly humans experience aesthetic beauty? Life started evolving on our planet somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 billion years ago. Something happened during that time that blessed us with the ineffable pleasures of music, visual art, poetry, and the wonders of nature. What could that something be?

It’s the sort of question that Pat and I ask each other as we pursue our unending fascination with Story. The other day, Pat ran across a bit of news that seems to offer a tantalizing morsel of an answer to that question.

Not along ago, underwater photographer Yoji Ookata spotted something amazing while diving near the Japanese island of Amami Ōshima. (The video above is by Marinestation Amami.) About 80 feet below sea level, a beautiful circular design was carved in the sandy seabed. The “magic circle” was about 6.5 feet across, exquisitely shaped from meticulously raised ridges, and decorated around the edges with tiny seashell fragments. What artist would have gone to the trouble of sculpting such a work there, where it was doomed to be washed away by ocean currents unseen by humans?

As it turned out, the creator of such patterns is the 5-inch-long male puffer fish. The design is intended to attract a mate. If a female puffer fish finds the circle sufficiently attractive, she lays her eggs in its center. The male fertilizes the eggs and buries them; the circle’s ridges will offer protection from ocean currents, and the sea shell fragments will supply vital nutrients. A BBC video narrated by Richard Attenborough shows this process from beginning to end.

The circle bears a stunning resemblance to the mandala, that ancient Hindu and Buddhist symbol of the universe. Countless human artists have been inspired by this sacred shape, including painter Linda Laino.

by Ma Le of San Francisco, from Wikimedia Commons

Amazing Sand Mandala by Ma Le of San Francisco, from Wikimedia Commons

Pat and I are especially struck by parallels to the modern Zen practice of making sand mandalas. A video made at Clark College shows a group of Tibetan monks creating such a mandala. This large and dazzling image is built with meditative patience, just a few multi-colored grains of sand at a time. The Zen mandala is ritually destroyed after its completion, much as the puffer fish’s “magic circle” is destroyed by the sea. All beauty, after all, is transient.

In his book The Diversity of Life, biologist E. O. Wilson writes about humankind’s aesthetic fascination with nature. He calls this fascination biophilia, which he defines as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.”

Looking at these newly discovered designs, it occurs to Pat and me that such subconscious connections predate the human species by eons. When we look into these undersea mandalas, we gaze deep into the evolutionary matrix of aesthetic beauty. The puffer fish’s circle brings us full circle. Our love of beauty is as one with our unceasing desire for life.

This post is dedicated to William S. E. Coleman.

Ruins for the Future

you-know-youre-a-history-fan-when-library-of-alexandria

I see this meme pop up from time to time. And yes, I too feel a certain pang about the Library of Alexandria. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if our grief might be a tad misplaced. For one thing, just which of the four fabled destructions of the Library of Alexandria is supposed to still upset us? Its reputedly accidental burning by Julius Caesar in 48 BCE? Another accidental ruination by the Emperor Aurelian ca. 270 BCE? A markedly deliberate destruction at the orders of the Coptic Pope Theophilus in 391 CE? An apparently apocryphal ravaging by Caliph Omar in 642 CE?

A single iconic “Burning of the Library of Alexandria” seems to linger in literate imaginations as a catch-all metaphor for the loss of any and all intellectual riches throughout the ages. But just what percentage of all the great ideas lost to time can really be blamed on those four purported catastrophes in that one place? A pretty small percentage is my not-so-humble guess.

A more pertinent if more unpalatable question might be — should we still be upset about it? In his book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright doesn’t specifically mention Alexandria, but he does mull over another catch-all metaphor for cultural waste, the so-called Dark Ages. Wright challenges Thomas Cahill’s assertion in How the Irish Saved Civilization that Irish monks singlehandedly rescued humanity’s most indispensable treasures from barbarian hoards after the fall of Rome. Wright quotes Cahill:

Had the destruction been complete — had every library been disassembled and every book burned — we might have lost Homer and Virgil and all of classical poetry, Herodotus and Tacitus and all of classical history, Demosthenes and Cicero and all of classical oratory, Plato and Aristotle and all of Greek philosophy, and Plotinus and Porphyry and all the subsequent commentary.

Wright’s response to Cahill:

Well, them’s the breaks. But what people of the early Middle Ages most needed wasn’t a good stiff dose of Demosthenes. They needed mundane things, such as a harness that wouldn’t press on a horse’s windpipe.

Wright isn’t being as callous as he might sound. His guiding optimistic idea in Nonzero is that human history is a halting but inexorable proliferation of “non-zero-sum” games — a sometimes wobbly but ever-forward march toward increasing intellect, sophistication, and cooperation. This perpetual advance will continue, Wright insists, with or without the all-too-perishable poems, plays, novels, and artworks that we so touchingly revere. The truer essentials of progress are the more prosaic but vastly more durable technological memes ranging from horseshoes to iPhones — and these have an uncanny way of turning up when we need them.

Another such argument is voiced in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia. In a scene set in early nineteenth-century England, a precocious fourteen-year-old pupil pines to her tutor about Julius Caesar’s destruction of the Library of Alexandria:

Oh, Septimus! — can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides — thousands of poems — Aristotle’s own library … ! How can we sleep for grief?

Septimus replies:

By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it.

Much more trenchant is a passage from Bernard Shaw’s play Caesar and Cleopatra. Here the elderly tutor Theodotus brings Julius Caesar desperate news:

THEODOTUS. The fire has spread from your ships. The first of the seven wonders of the world perishes. The library of Alexandria is in flames.

CAESAR. Is that all?

THEODOTUS (unable to believe his senses). All! Caesar: will you go down to posterity as a barbarous soldier too ignorant to know the value of books?

CAESAR. Theodotus: I am an author myself; and I tell you it is better that the Egyptians should live their lives than dream them away with the help of books.

THEODOTUS (kneeling, with genuine literary emotion: the passion of the pedant). Caesar: once in ten generations of men, the world gains an immortal book.

CAESAR (inflexible). If it did not flatter mankind, the common executioner would burn it.

THEODOTUS. Without history, death would lay you beside your meanest soldier.

CAESAR. Death will do that in any case. I ask no better grave.

THEODOTUS. What is burning there is the memory of mankind.

CAESAR. A shameful memory. Let it burn.

THEODOTUS (wildly). Will you destroy the past?

CAESAR. Ay, and build the future with its ruins.

1280px-The_Burning_of_the_Library_at_Alexandria_in_391_AD

God’s Substitute: Elizabeth and Shakespeare After the Essex Rebellion — a short play

Characters:

Queen Elizabeth I
William Shakespeare

The scene is the queen’s privy chamber in the Palace of Whitehall, February 1601. A table is scattered with books and papers. Queen Elizabeth I, less extravagantly dressed than in official portraits, sits at the table reading. Across the table from her is an empty chair. William Shakespeare enters.

640px-Darnley_stage_3ELIZABETH.  Master Shakespeare.

SHAKESPEARE (kneeling).  How may I please Your Majesty?

ELIZABETH.  Arise.

(SHAKESPEARE does so.)

ELIZABETH.  Who am I?

SHAKESPEARE.  Do you need a lowly scribbler to tell you?

ELIZABETH.  I am Richard II, know you not that?

SHAKESPEARE.  With due humility, Your Majesty, I know no such thing.

ELIZABETH.  No lies—not here alone with your queen.

(SHAKESPEARE looks around with surprise.)

640px-Title_page_William_Shakespeare's_First_Folio_1623ELIZABETH.  My councilors were against it—Sir Robert especially. “Alone!” he cried. “With a man who aided a rebellion against you!” “Do not fear for my person,” I told him. “There’s such divinity hedging a queen, treason may only peep at what it wishes to do. We’ll have Will’s head soon enough.”

SHAKESPEARE.  I did not aid a rebellion.

ELIZABETH  (perusing some papers).  The day before Essex tried to seize my court, did you not put on a show at his command?

SHAKESPEARE.  A trifling play, Your Majesty, so old and out of use, I don’t know why he wanted it. A solid mass of turgid verse; too many end-stops, rhymes, and lockstep iambs; not a scrap of prose for relief, no comedy at all, nothing to please the groundlings but gardeners spouting homilies from some old morality play. Indeed, that’s all it is, a musty and intolerable morality play that—

ELIZABETH  (interrupting him as she pores over the papers). Hush. (Pause) The Tragedy of Richard II. (Pause) The tragedy of me.

SHAKESPEARE.  I don’t understand you.

ELIZABETH.  No lies, I said—not when you’re about to meet your maker. I have a transcript here.
(Reading)
Landlord of England art thou now, not king:

Thy state of law is bondslave to the law.

SHAKESPEARE.  You read the lines exquisitely, ma’am. But what have they to do with you?

ELIZABETH.  The story of the righteous deposition of one vulgar landlord by another, of one usurper by another—the story of Essex deposing me, the bastard daughter of King Henry. Surely you knew what your employer wanted with it.

434px-Devereaux_essex4

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

SHAKESPEARE.  Who were we humble players to refuse?

ELIZABETH.  Especially when he paid you 40 shillings for it. Ten more silver pieces than even Judas got for betraying our Good Lord!

SHAKESPEARE. The play is only a play.

ELIZABETH.  A monarch is God’s anointed substitute on earth, else he—or she—is nothing. If one monarch was ever a vulgar landlord, then so are all the rest, and so am I. Was Richard a vulgar landlord?

SHAKESPEARE.  I cannot say.

ELIZABETH  (pointing to the page).  You say right here—

SHAKESPEARE.  Not I, the dying John of Gaunt.

ELIZABETH.  You wrote his words.

SHAKESPEARE.  I merely held the pen for him.

ELIZABETH.  False.

SHAKESPEARE.  Mayn’t I put treason on the stage without standing accused of it?

ELIZABETH.  Only if you take care to call it treason.

SHAKESPEARE.  And hang signs around my actors’ necks? “Anointed King,” “Treacherous Usurper,” “Vulgar Landlord”?

ELIZABETH.  Instructive.

SHAKESPEARE.  It’s not my trade to judge—rather to hold a mirror up to nature.

ELIZABETH.  Do you suppose nature wishes to look upon her own twisted carcass, her countenance wrinkled and pockmarked, a mangy wig upon her scabby scalp? Paint a flattering portrait—fair, blooming, and buxom. Show it to her. Tell her it’s a perfect likeness.

SHAKESPEARE.  I’d be a shoddy playwright then.

ELIZABETH.  You’d be a live one.

SHAKESPEARE.  I implore you—

ELIZABETH.  No.

SHAKESPEARE.  If I’ve offended Your Majesty—

ELIZABETH.  Betrayed.

SHAKESPEARE.  I sincerely repent that I—

ELIZABETH.  Fear, not love, begets your penitence.

SHAKESPEARE.  May I not save myself?

ELIZABETH.  Not if you must be yourself.

SHAKESPEARE.  I may be no one else.

ELIZABETH.  Then we’re done.

(Pause)

SHAKESPEARE.  Well. I owe my God a death. If it be not to come, it will be now. I don’t feel especially well. (Indicating a chair by the table) May I?

(SHAKESPEARE sits.)

ELIZABETH.  Impudence!

SHAKESPEARE.  Ma’am, if your executioner is half as good at his trade as I’m at mine, I’ll see my cut-out heart bloody and beating before my still-living eyes. Forgive that I’m no longer daunted by your sovereign rage. And now—won’t you indulge a dead man’s whimsy? Let’s chat away these precious moments.

(ELIZABETH glares at him.)

Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli

SHAKESPEARE.  What are you reading? (Picking up a book) Ah—Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince.

(ELIZABETH snatches the book away from him.)

SHAKESPEARE. “Hatred is acquired as much by good works as by bad ones,” he says. And, “A prince wishing to keep his state is very often forced to do evil.” And, “A prince ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty.” How shocking to find you reading such stuff.

ELIZABETH.  You seem to know it by heart.

SHAKESPEARE.  It’s my trade. What do you think of our Italian friend?

ELIZABETH.  The wickedest of men.

SHAKESPEARE.  No lies—not to a man about to meet his maker. We both know what we’re supposed to say. I’ve done my own dutiful best to make his name the same as Satan’s, to render him a man of plots, drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams, murdering men and then wooing their widows, his hands dripping with the blood of babes. I even gave him a frightful shape:
His mother felt more than a mother’s pain,
And yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope,
To wit, an indigested and deformèd lump;
Teeth had he in his head when he was born,
To signify he cam’st to bite the world.
But all that’s stale and false. So just between the two of us—the truth. What do you think of him?

(Silence)

Richard III

Richard III

SHAKESPEARE.  When I was apprenticed into the players’ art and mystery, I learned to sing, fight, fence, tumble, dance, and—oh, yes, to conjure: make flowers bloom from the palm of my hand, send sleeping maids floating upon the air, snatch a man’s head off his shoulders and put it back again. How I feared that some rival conjuror would go among the crowd, telling the secrets of all my illusions! And that’s what Machiavelli did to you, isn’t it? Exposed your trade, the art and mystery of princehood, revealed your trapdoors, wires, and mirrors.

ELIZABETH.  Revealed that God had nothing to do with what we are.

SHAKESPEARE.  Your words, Ma’am.

ELIZABETH.  Clever fellow.

SHAKESPEARE.  Me or him?

ELIZABETH.  When I was apprenticed, my father read him to me, made me learn much by memory. Tell me—is it better to be loved or feared?

SHAKESPEARE.  To be feared, of course.

ELIZABETH.  Ay, “for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage—”

SHAKESPEARE.  “—but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

ELIZABETH.  And yet—whether he is feared or loved, a prince must always avoid being hated. “Learn this lesson well,” my father said, “for it shall be your doing or undoing.”

SHAKESPEARE.  He would be well-pleased.

ELIZABETH.  Oh, no—for as I near my grave, hatred grows against me, and also justly-earned contempt. This late rebellion proves it. I failed to follow Machiavelli’s advice. I made myself loved rather than feared.

Richard II taken into custody by the Earl of Northumberland

Richard II taken into custody by the Earl of Northumberland

SHAKESPEARE.  All your subjects fear you.

ELIZABETH.  Why so? My tyranny touches but a handful of them. I am a lone woman, and old. How many commands are mine to give? But put Machiavelli’s book into the hands of every Englishman who can read, and each of them becomes a tyrant. Then blossom too many commands for all the generations of Adam to obey, and bloody oppression waxes infinite. The tyranny of the one is not worth fearing; the tyranny of the many, of the all—now that’s a tyranny to terrify any sane soul. (Pause) I summoned you to take off your head. Instead, I’ll put something on it.

(ELIZABETH pantomimes her own deposition and SHAKESPEARE‘s coronation.)

ELIZABETH.
Now mark me, how I will undo myself:
I give this heavy weight from off my head
And this unwieldy scepter from my hand,
The pride of queenly sway from out my heart;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hands I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths:
All pomp and majesty I do forswear.
Make me, that nothing have, with nothing griev’d,
And thou with all pleas’d, that hast all achiev’d!

(She places the imaginary crown on SHAKESPEARE’s head, the imaginary scepter in his hand.)

ELIZABETH.  Hail, William Rex—Stratford Glover’s Son, Student of Machiavelli, Tyrant Among Untold Multitudes of Tyrants. I, humble Elizabeth, the sole remaining subject in all the realm, do kneel before you.

(ELIZABETH kneels.)

END OF PLAY

Back to Lamarck?

“Did you know that acquired characteristics can be inherited?”

220px-Jean-Baptiste_de_Lamarck

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

My daughter dropped that little bombshell on me one day after she came home from school.

“What kind of crap are they teaching you in that biology class of yours?” I grumbled.

“It’s called epigenetics,” she replied. “Look it up.”

I did. It blew my mind.

In previous posts, I wrote about Bernard Shaw’s attempt to found an evolution-based religion called Life Force Worship. Shaw’s ideas were based on the pre-Darwinian theories of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Here’s an admittedly crude and cartoonish rendition of the Lamarckian Story:

Once upon an extremely long-ago time, a certain hoofed animal ate all the leaves within easy reach. It then got into the habit of stretching its neck in order to eat leaves higher up. It passed along both the habit and an ever-so-slightly more elongated neck to its offspring. And lo, after untold generations of habit and inheritance, we now have giraffes in our midst.

Lamarckism eventually gave way to Charles Giraffe23Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. Alas, according to this new idea, giraffes did not develop long necks solely through exercise and effort—by willing it, so to speak. Instead, giraffes lucky enough to be longer-necked managed to survive and procreate in the life-or-death struggle to reach higher leaves.

The process seemed (at least to thinkers like Shaw) to be intolerably random, even mindless. Nevertheless, Lamarckism was relegated to the dustbin of defunct ideas—or so it was long thought.

Epigenetic_mechanismsI won’t try to explain how epigenetics works. I doubt that I’ll ever be able to wrap my own brain around it. The gist of it seems to be that, while our genes are pretty much inalterable, the expression of those genes is not. Moreover, acquired characteristics sometimes can be inherited. As Kara Rogers writes in Scientific American,

the implications so far suggest that our lifestyles and what we eat, drink, and breathe may directly affect the genetic health of our progeny.

What’s more, epigenetics may well offer possibilities for treating obesity, cancer, diabetes, addiction, aging, mental disorders, and all sorts of other bugbears of the human condition.

So has this new science given Lamarckism a new lease on life? There’s a lot of healthy skepticism out there. And I doubt that any serious epigeneticist is ready to claim that giraffes willed themselves into having longer necks. But epigenetics certainly looks like an inspiring plot point in the ever-evolving Story of life.

Stitches, Stones, Spaces & Paper

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I’m drawn to the creative experience—that act of discovery that can change everything …

For some years, Pat lived on an old farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley—an “art farm” where she raised horses, chickens, and other animals, grew a garden, cooked on a wood-burning stove, and held art workshops, all with the help of other artists and several energetic teenagers.

It was a creatively transforming environment, she recalls …

My eyes simply filled up, and my brain overflowed with the world around me. I used photography, painting, stained glass, metals, fibers, handmade paper, and natural objects to try to comprehend what I was seeing. Those works were my way of looking at things, looking between things, and finally looking into the energy and connectedness within things.

Although Pat has worked in many visual media, in recent years she has turned to the warm, organic qualities of natural fibers, paper, and stones. She often uses a technique called needlelace, which incorporates some stitches from traditional lace making.

Pat has had one-woman shows in Virginia and Mexico, and her awards include a prize from MacWorld magazine for computer art. This little video is about a show she presented in San Miguel de Allende in 2010 …

The Life Force Speaks to G.B.S. Out of the Evolutionary Whirlwind

bernard-shaw-on-self-effacement
In our last post, we touched on Bernard Shaw’s all but single-handed creation of a “religion of the future”: Life Force Worship. Not surprisingly, a faith in which God does not exist (yet) was not widely welcomed by the conventionally religious. Perhaps more surprising is the animus Shaw got from the scientifically literate—an animus that still persists today.

Shaw’s friend H. G. Wells, himself a former pupil of T. H. (“Darwin’s Bulldog”) Huxley, told Shaw that his religion embodied “an almost encyclopedic philosophical and biological ignorance.” And Richard Dawkins remembers with shame that “my own appreciation of Darwinism as a teenager was held back for at least a year by Shaw’s bewitching rhetoric in Back to Methuselah.”

Why such hostility? In the spirit of Story, let’s play with this question in a free-verse fable — with an accompanying video …

He was sitting there minding his own business and trying his best to write a potboiler replete with adulterous affairs and a couple of good sword fights when it had him round the throat again demanding:

“How dare you disobey me thus:
I who made the fish to thirst for the air and create nostrils for itself and feet so it could walk upon the earth:
I who made the giraffe to stretch its neck to attain the green beauty of the leaves:
and the mouse to insist on wings and arrange them out of its own flaccid flesh so it might fly in the dark like a bird:
and apes like you to seek more mind out of muddled mute sludge over eons of hit-and-miss attempts:
a mind to be my pilot and my guide and you use it to feed your own greedy face.”

“There you go spewing Lamarckian nonsense again,” said he.
“And if that isn’t bad enough you make me talk it too:
mystical gobbledygoop that flummoxes science and slurs divinity and goads all sentient clusters of cells subscribing to fact or faith to shout ‘Blasphemy!’ from the bowels of billion-year-old lungs:
and who can blame them?
And to make matters worse you make me believe it myself:
you make me a cursed genetic freak and a puncture on the face of life and a damned mutation with no like organism to breed more of my kind with:
you make me to speak with such infernal roundabout wit that my fellow creatures are too delighted by how I say things to pay the first shred of attention to what I have to say:
just as you did with Jesus Christ damn you:
and now I demand to know if I’m to be crucified like he was.”

“Certainly not,” it replied. “You’ll live to be ninety-four.”

“Too old to be martyred and too young to learn,” he moaned.

“Remember the giraffe,” said the Life Force out of the Chaos.