I like to play this game, lately, where I pretend that I have just landed on Earth and am seeing life for the first time. The white button mushrooms on a rotting stump; the pollen-dusted bumblebees in my backyard; the towering oaks along the highway. I imagine an omniscient voice narrating their existence.
"Once upon a time," the voice booms, "when the universe was still young, a star exploded. That blast spewed dust clouds made of raw elements into the galaxy. The elements clustered into compounds. The Earth was formed. Then, a colorless, odorless liquid. Within its shallow depths, cosmic particles continued to collect, eventually forming strange sacks of matter: cells.
"Then, miraculously, the sacks began to replicate, each iteration more complex, more colorful. The planet blossomed with diversity, each new life form cosmically designed for an essential role. Fungi would recycle; bumblebees would pollinate; oaks would provide shelter."
Here, the narration fades, and I am left deep in thought.
What is our predestined role on this planet, I wonder? What is our ecological niche?
Perhaps it is to ask such questions, to search for answers and to try to better understand the harmony of the universe. Or, perhaps that notion is too romantic. After all, this is not a movie — it's science, often considered the antonym of magic.
But what is more extraordinary than star dust?
And so I try to see it: the origins of life, twinkling through every speck of this strange planet, so fantastically improbable that it takes my breath away.
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