A thunderbolt, the jostling of silicates,
Or as religions, mumbling, say,
The divine spark, the manipulation of eternal clay,
Perhaps arranged, not us but our ancestral particles.
These primitive geometries, atomic clots with
Special properties, arose like involutions in a bowl of soup,
And tumbling through adjacent matter
In deterministic free-fall made skydiving crystals
Disposed to propagate, marry, divorce, and propagate
Until dissolved. Life is a consequence, if p then q,
And existence conditioned by the turbulence of things,
Whose movements we describe, and in some small part predict.
Formed by shapes that were formed by shapes,
And forming shapes in turn, our forebears danced
In a brownian kaleidoscopic space, where variety
Was infinite, but survival differential.
No pattern book remains and demolished molecules
Have scant memorial and less history. No Kipling writes
“Known unto God” on the empty and exholating tomb of
An exholated crystal, whose vanished whole, its parts unvanquished,
Has consequences, truly, in the stream of history,
But perturbations, vorteces; a widow's mite of influence,
Shuffled and dissipated, haunts the descendants
Of ancient contemporaries as null indifference.
Imagine the sea, for only in the fluid sea could so much
Motion and experiment be found, the air too thin, too poor in
Matter to fund the waste of evolution, and the earth so thick
Inert, resistant, and unmixed, its substance lacking opportunity.
Imagine the sea, its grosser tides concealing from the eye
The flux and reflux of successful replicators, joining and
Dividing as determined by their chemistry, the stepwise creation
Of effective complexity, the tireless endurance of effective simplicity.
Rolling crystals, each with special tricks, agglomerate a case,
Taking, as the caddis worm chooses, off the rack of circumstance
Material to be clipped and tucked and bolted on,
Creative tailors, modestly adventurous not sharp and fanciful,
For light headed crystals leave few descendants, so couture
In the school of Darwin tends to be flounceless and practical,
Of broad application; but from time to time, the genome finds itself
Improperly dressed for an important function.
A god might arise in such a system. If a conscious ape,
Or lion then why not an immortal, thrown up by the twining
World lines of all matter, the glorious crown of the material
Universe? But immortal must be invulnerable,
And the numbers are against a surface so sleek or a structure so
Firm, proof against all the enemies that might arise
Within and around its body for the termless course of its
Existence. As individuals we ourselves might be immortal
Were it not for the rapacious nibbling of other forms,
Who erode us that they may live, as we erode others; and if
We could cleanse our organs of all the toxic sludge accumulating
There like fluff and dust in the workings of a harvester,
Perhaps we would persist, until destroyed or starved by our own
Offspring, then everywhere and everything. A god not liable
To these diseases, a structure insusceptible to change,
Would be inert, an island in stable configuration, and hence
As dead as any stone, and quite as mindless; Let us not respect
Or venerate such idols. And if alive, then much more like to us
Than the doctrines of the churches find it pleasant to admit,
Ourselves or some other creature magnified, its qualities enlarged
Until enormous, not abstracted like the deity of myth, whose life
We imagine by thinking of ourselves quite bowdlerized of need and
Consequence, by wishing away our vulnerabilities, and leaving
A glassy death mask which forever simpers with parental love.
Casting such vanities aside enter the desert like a prophet,
The glorious desert, not dead, not desert, a jungle of matter,
A surge of breaking forms. The world is in a grain of sand, that’s partly true
And you, though round and complicated, full of blood, have facets too.
The path of aggregation and the path of dissolution are equally
Material. Cohering particles produce no spirit - every mineral
Would have a soul on such a view - but intricate arrangements,
Like ourselves or trees, the mites on one and the birds on the other
Are capable and self-defensive structures, armed and equipped:
Consciousness is one more property of matter; as lead is opaque
To radiation, so the jumble of particles suspended in an animal's
Tender, pulsating and reiterative frame has the property of thought,
A rich device for sowing seeds, as wantonly profuse
With machiavellian stratagems as male forms are with sperm,
But, more machiavellian still, quite unaware of its designs
In nine cases out of ten, the better to deceive its observant victims.
And yet this purpose too is inherent in the network of its form,
And the network of its form is the result of reproduction,
And hence evolved complexity precedes and makes all purpose:
And thus rocks sink while animals swim in a sea that drifts.