If you imagine the 4,500-bilion-odd years of Earth's history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.M. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow. Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 P.M. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant. Throughout this greatly speeded-up day continents slide about and bang together at a clip that seems positively reckless. Mountains rise and melt away, ocean basins come and go, ice sheets advance and withdraw. And throughout the whole, about three times every minute, somewhere on the planet there is a flash-bulb pop of light marking the impact of a Manson-sized meteor or one even larger. It's a wonder that anything at all can survive in such a pummeled and unsettled environment. In fact, not many things do for long.
Bill Bryson
I prayed to a mystery.Sometimes I was simply aware of the mystery. I saw a flash of it during a trip to New York that David and I took before we were married. We were walking on a busy sidewalk in Manhattan. I don't remember if it was day or night. A man with a wound on his forehead came toward us. His damp, ragged hair might have been clotted with blood, or maybe it was only dirt. He wore deeply dirty clothes. His red, swollen hands, cupped in half-fists, swung loosely at his sides. His eyes were focused somewhere past my right shoulder. He staggered while he walked. The sidewalk traffic flowed around him and with him. He was strange and frightening and at the same time he belonged on the Manhattan sidewalk as much as any of us. It was that paradox -- that he could be both alien and resident, both brutalized and human, that he could stand out in the moving mass of people like a sea monster in a school of tuna and at the same time be as much at home as any of us -- that stayed with me. I never saw him again, but I remember him often and when I do, I am aware of the mystery.Years later, I was out on our property on the Olympic Peninsula, cutting a path through the woods. This was before our house was built. After chopping through dense salal and hacking off ironwood bushes for an hour or so, I stopped, exhausted. I found myself standing motionless, intensely aware of all of the life around me, the breathing moss, the chattering birds, the living earth. I was as much a part of the woods as any millipede or cedar tree. At that moment, too, I was aware of the mystery.Sometimes I wanted to speak to this mystery directly. Out of habit, I began with Dear God and ended with Amen. But I thought to myself, I am not praying to that old man in the sky. Rather, I am praying to this thing I can't define. It was sort of like talking into a foggy valley.Praying into a bank of fog requires alot of effort. I wanted an image to focus on when I prayed. I wanted something to pray *to*. but I couldn't go back to that old man. He was too closely associated with all I'd left behind.
Margaret D. McGee
There is a club in this world that you do not join knowingly.One day you are just a member.It is The life changing events club.The fee to join the club is hurt beyond belief, payable in full, up front for a lifetime membership.The benefit of the club is a new found perspective on life and a deep understanding that you may not be happy about your current situation, but you can be happy in your current situation.The only rule to the club is that you cannot tell anyone that you are a member.The club does not provide a directory of its members, but when you look into a member’s eye, you can tell that they too are part of the club. Members are allowed to exchange that brief eye contact that says: I didn’t know.Being a member of this club is the last thing that anyone initially wants in their life.Being a member of this club is the best thing that ever happens to a person in their life and there is not a person in the club that would ever give up their membership.If you really look and know what you are looking for you can spot the clubs members; they are the ones that provide a random act of kindness and do something for someone who can never repay them for what they have done. They are the people spreading joy and optimism and lifting people’s spirits even when their own heart has been broken.I have paid my dues; my lifetime membership arrived today, not by mail, but by a deep inner feeling that I cannot describe.It is the best club that I never wanted to be part of. But I am glad that I am a member.
JohnA Passaro