Life has been present on earth for about three billion, eight hundred million (3,800,000,000) years. These brief blog posts discuss bits of that history that I find comprehensible and satisfying to learn about. They include the single-celled organisms that evolved for two billion years before life grew larger; trees and other plants that stay alive in ways more alien and more familiar than we expect; approaching and avoiding, the primary actions that every organism, at every level, carries out; and some of the ways that our bodies, including our brains, work.
Such topics bring the ingenuities of life on earth up closer than I have known them and they speak to me about life’s biggest issues. The eons over which living things have persisted, linked through chains of DNA, ease my fear of death. The trees and plants thriving around me gladden me with their calm, slow-motion purposefulness. Cooperation and competition, team-work and battle—the engines of our social and moral lives—perplex me less knowing how embedded they are in other organisms. And glimpsing the workings of the mind helps me untangle (a little) my consciousness from my self-consciousness from my self.
Because I’m not a scientist, I come to this biology like someone who has not seen the ocean before. The vista is more intricate and greater than I imagined and I am smaller and fuller in its presence.