Here's a photo of me standing on a rock looking wistful. Here's another photo of me sitting on a bench looking soulful. Here's yet another photo ... Cut them out. Put them on your wall. Make a calendar. B xxx
I confess that when we began thinking about Wonders of Life, my first thought was "Why me?" as I gave up biology as an academic subject in 1984. But then I looked in the mirror and I thought: "Yeah. That's amaaazin." Evolution, DNA and butterflies. They're amaaazin, too. I mean, look at this blade of grass. It's basically made of the same shit as you and me. That's like, mind-blowin. More so for me than for you. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
Water. It's magnificent. Every time a new star is born, a chain of events is set in place, catapulting hydrogen and oxygen atoms on an interstellar journey of billions of miles that ends up in my bath. I find it so hard to get my head around that. Did you know there are two species perfectly adapted for walking on water? One are insects known as gerridae; the other is me.
Then there's sunshine. Virtually every living thing on the planet is ultimately powered by sunshine, which is why I started writing this sentence lying down in a field near the South Downs and finished it on a train in Mexico. See my tan? That's what happens when UV photons travel millions of miles to react with the melanin in my skin. Beautiful, isn't it? It's OK if you linger on this page. I don't mind.
Colours. They are amaaazin and all. Who'd want to do all those drugs when you can just go out into nature and see all these reds and blues and yellows and greens. Wow! And then there's my eyes. Have you ever seen such a hypnotic brown? Pigment of the gods.
Now take a look at this picture. Do you notice anything unusual about it? Yes, that's right. I'm not in it. It's just a boring shot of cyanobacteria under the microscope. So let's move on. Air. Weird how something so light can be so heavy to explain. Like when did it first support life? I mean, what is life anyway? Not even Schrödinger knew for sure. So here I am on the Taal volcano in the Philippines to purr on about the first law of thermodynamics. Are you getting sweaty? I know I am. Try hard and you can measure your desire.
Now let's think about photosynthesis and entropy. On second thoughts, let's not. Let's just look at some more amaaazin pictures of animals and birds and fish and insects and all sorts. Some of them are really, really big and some of them are really, really small and the totally amaaazin thing is that it's not a coincidence. We're all one big family made out of the same molecular compounds. Though some of us are arranged rather more photogenically. And the most amaaazin thing of all is that we are all still evolving, so it's possible that there will one day be a scientist even lovelier than me.
There's so much left to say about carbon and quasars and mitochondria, but what really does my head in is that there are over half a trillion galaxies in the observable universe; the idea that there are no other planets out there with webs of life at least as complex as our own seems to me an absurd proposition. Which means that somewhere in a parallel space-time continuum, there is another drop-dead gorgeous rock legend standing on a Pacific atoll as David Attenborough whispers from on high: "Verily it is written that you are the chosen one."
Digested read, digested: The Life of Brian