Darwin’s moment

45 minutes mid-morning on a grubby railway platform midway between the Cardiff office and the business estate you are now based at. Waiting for a connecting train along with the heavy load of paper files and IT kit that you were transporting from one desk to another. Lugged the loaded rucksack further on to avoid the splotch of vomit on the asphalt in front of the polyurethane bum-shelf seating. Pastured and pine-forested slopes hazing into a damp grey sky all around.

It’s been one of those days when you can’t suppress bubbling optimism, despite reasons to feel worldweary. And yesterday was just the opposite: reasons to be happy but it felt disjointed and pointless.

Something about Darwin’s lonely moment. As the first human in the right place to absorb what the scientific method had revealed: the evidence of the rocks, fossils and biological record. That Nature’s neither benign nor not benign. Only massively indifferent. That the pangs of sensation that animate life from nematodes to humans, that give rise to nurture and cooperation and what we might call goodness, amount to one single drop in the ocean of cosmic coldness. Countless people intuited this before and after, but Darwin’s must have been an especially bleak discovery, being built of evidence a man could chip his teeth on. Evidence amassed through his own research.

 

Gritty and damp

paving stones in the backyard cold

on the soles of your feet

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