Miracle of Life
Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn’t easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.
To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and curiously obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will exist only this once. For the next many years ( we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, co-operative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under appreciated state known as existence.
Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don’t actually care about you – indeed, don’t even know that you are there. They are mindless particles, after all, and not even themselves alive. (It is a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had been you.) yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single rigid impulse: to keep you you.
The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed.
Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes into view, or at some other point thereabouts, for reason unknown your atoms will close you down, then silently disassemble and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.
Still, you may rejoice that it happens at all. Generally speaking in the universe it doesn’t, so far as we can tell. This is decidedly odd because the atoms that so liberally and congenially flock together, to form living things on Earth are exactly the same atoms that decline to do it elsewhere. Whatever else it may be, at the level of chemistry life is fantastically mundane: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, a little of calcium, a dash of sulphur, a light dusting of other very ordinary elements – nothing you wouldn’t find in any ordinary pharmacy – and that’s all you need. The only thing special about the atoms that make you is that they make YOU. That is, of course, the MIRACLE OF LIFE.
This is from the book " A short history of Nearly everything" by Bill Bryson - ' a travelogue of science, with a witty, engaging, and well-informed guide who loves his patch and is desperate to share its delight with us'