January 28, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)


He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Last night, in the middle of a dream, I was dimly aware that the structure that I was looking at and discussing with someone was one that I had never seen, didn't exist and had never existed. My brain had created something original. True, the people in my dream looked like, moved like, and talked like real people and the structure was made of wood, but the situation was unique, as was the structure. My mind had created something sort-of original.

Picasso saw things that have never existed and, being a consummately skilled artist, he replicated what he saw so that we can now all see it.

Sometimes, when I contemplate the miracles that are all around me in countless numbers, I am filled with awe. I can only mention a few of the googleplex of wonders that abound on Earth, and the rest of the universe is full of wonders that I can't begin to conceive.

It is enough for me to be aware of the miracles that I know about. I can't explain them and the more that I do understand about them, the more miraculous they seem. When I was a small child, a few simple words would be enough to satisfy me: God did it or mamma did it, or Roosevelt did it. Not only do words no longer satisfy me, but I know that there is nothing that could possibly satisfy me.

I am lying here in bed, typing on a laptop computer. The sun has not yet come up. The sky is filled with patches of clouds that change their appearance, color and brightness by the second. Soon the sun will fill the room with light and heat. It is never the same, and it is wonderful every time. I never tire of watching the sky. Nor do I tire of contemplating the procession of miracles that parade before me every day of my life.

I was born and raised in caves called apartments. The first time that I slept under the stars, I realized that, when possible, that was the way that I wanted to live for the rest of my life. Since sleeping under the stars is not practical for an old man, I built a glass house on a mountain top. Here is where I intend to spend the rest of my days.

As a student, I knew that a person's heredity was carried on things called chromosomes, which I have seen under the microscope, and that they came in pairs. Within the chromosomes were genes, which could not be seen, that determined a person's heredity. It was inferred from experiments that the genes were lined up on the chromosomes. Sometimes genes mutated(changed). They could be made to change with ionizing radiation.

Some time after I left school, the work of a number of people was put together. The result was a discovery that each individual chromosome contained two strands that were complementary; that is, in the place on a chromosome where one strand had an adenine molecule, its complementary strand had a thymine molecule. Guanine and cytocine were similarly paired. When it came time for a chromosome to reproduce, the strands separated and each strand made its complementary strand, thus making two chromosomes. The whole genetic code was composed of those 4 molecules, similar in a way to a computer code that uses only two numbers, 0 and 1. What was a mystery became clear. To me that made it all the more miraculous, that something that simple could make beings of incredible complexity.

Some people believe that taking the mystery out of something makes it less amazing. To me, finding out how things happen make them all the more wonderful and exciting.

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