Friday, November 30, 2007

Loren Eiseley on Flowers

The call in Nebraska is to bring back old Tom Osborne to coach the Huskers, but what we need is naturalist and scientist Loren Eiselely speaking to our connection to the earth--in that way we might take care of it and ourselves and everything on it a bit better. Of course, he's dead, so bringing him back physically will be hard. Nonetheless....

“Flowers changed the face of the planet. Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star. Intuitively he has sensed like a naturalist the enormous interlinked complexity of life. Today we know that the appearance of the flowers contained also the equally mystifying emergence of man.”

If it wasn't for the high energy content of seeds produced by flowers, Eiseley notes, humanity wouldn't have flourished; only the evolution of flowering plants led mammals to take over the land. Why seeds? Because the human brain--unlike, say, cold-blooded reptile brains--requires far more energy as it processes complex ideas. That's the short version.

“Without the gift of flowers and the infinite diversity of their fruits, man and bird, if they had continued to exist at all, would be today unrecognizable. Archeopteryx, the lizard-bird, might still be snapping at beetles on a sequoia limb; man might still be a nocturnal insectivore gnawing a roach in the dark. The weight of a petal has changed the face of the world and made it ours.”

Other Eiseley quotes of note, all taken from his book The Star Thrower.

“Ever since man first painted animals in the dark of caves he has been responding to the holy, to the numinous, to the mystery of being and becoming…”

“One can only assert that in science, as in religion, when one has destroyed human wonder and compassion, one has killed man, even if the man in question continues to go about his laboratory tasks.”

“If it should turn out that we have mishandled our own lives as several civilizations before us have done, it seems a pity that we should involve the violet and the tree frog in our departure.”

No comments: