Materials of life


It comes as an exhaustive relief that making the voyage to Mars is not only my Daisy List*.

David Bowman‘s image of a Damsel Fly

[Written weeks ago under a baby blue sky, no vapour trails but cartoon clouds on the warmest day of the year.]

Sitting by a well stocked stretch of water with bees bobbing into every blackberry bud and the blue haze of damsel- & dragonflys billowing with each turn of a page, birds engaging in genial chatter and, too early in the day to bother much about anything, the geese resisting all inclination to honk their presence. This deep, restorative peace is almost overwhelming.

Yet, Life teams and pulses all around.

Contrast the earnestly eerie, empty silence of Mars?


NASA’s images which its roving lander Perseverance wafts across the 217 million miles separating the planets in 19 minutes (tiens, eh ben dit donc), make me weep.

Life, teaming gush of unending cascade, seems tangibly absent in desolation of shattering void.

If you squint amid the Red Planet’s ochre vibrations, are you also shaken by what absence-of-life looks like? No blue sky, no pulsing verdance, neither dawns nor dusks, never blossoms in blooms or birds in song. Nor can imagination, kindness, joy or wonder penetrate the dense, unyielding vacuum.

Exploration is in our DNA, the bold will go and stretch further filigrees of enquiry. Thank goodness their bravery allows me to remain here to gaze through the green at crushingly exquisite glory of this planet.

It makes me so thankful for the barely credible co-incidence that perfect distance from our star enables dark matter to manifest itself materially as Life: by which I mean consciousness.

* dismal expression of Bucket List more cheerfully captured as Daisy List.

Pawing over the evidence


Oh dear: this looks bad. No posts in over a month then another animal story follows the last. Mebbie it’s that the world is so mad currently, soothing sanctuary is delivered through pondering and wonder-ing?

We came across a peer-review journal: this is how it describes itself. Learning & Behavior  publishes experimental and theoretical contributions and critical reviews concerning fundamental processes of learning and behavior in nonhuman and human animals. Topics covered include sensation, perception, conditioning, learning, attention, memory, motivation, emotion, development, social behavior, and comparative investigations.

In yesterday’s Telegraph, Henry Bodkin opened his piece on research published in said journal by telling us that dogs were no smarter than goats. Well, look no further than the last post, below, to finish that sentence.

And yet in fairness, the character of a dog is wildly different: maybe intelligence is a flawed method of assessing animals’ merits?

Afterall, walk into a room to find a dog. It will greet you with over-eager enthusiasm and say ‘Halllooooooooo. Where’s the ball; throw the ball; throw the ball; where’s the ball?

Enter a room to find a cat (doubtless in slumber). If the energy can be mustered, it might creak open an eyelid and if it deems you sufficiently worthy of addressing, might say “I trust you realize that I am the Platonic Form Cat. My self-evident perfection is the mold for all who crave such feline iridescence yet a glimpse of me must lay waste to their puny ambition.”

This marked difference between two domesticated species tells all one need know that character traits of living creatures is a more complex matter. How the brain works can be replicated by artificial intelligence. But the mind – or consciousness, or the faculty by which we know we’re alive – is life: on which rests the mysterious wonder-ings immutably resistant to capture.

Would that the consequence of all the research – this latest from University of Exeter – sought to flourish human imagination and capacity to understand animals’ inalienable right to live to the fullest degree.

Women know what it means to be diminished through others’ ignorance and – by implication of which – fear.

Shouldn’t walls that imprison possibility be torn down?