Cosmos XI. The Persistence of Memory

Information is important to Life, and Earth is positively rippling with both.
Quasi-intelligent beings that never see the light of day live on inside us,
While mindless molecular machines copy our biological biography
With the guided precision of a skilled craftsman.

All living creatures store libraries of information in their genes,
But many beings are graced by the presence of a brain.
It slowly developed, layer upon layer,
modern primate upon
transitional mammal upon
ancient reptile upon
primordial stem.
In the shadowy, wrinkled valleys of the cerebral cortex,
An incredible bit of magic takes place,
When a collection of simple matter
Suddenly achieves consciousness.

This unsightly mass of soft gray tissue is the platform
From which all thinking creatures launch.
It is the facilitator of all we have created,
From spears to gods, from civilizations to rockets.

We may have been once been limited to sounds and words to relay our experiences,
But fortunately we have been given artists and authors to do that for us.
Of all the creations of humanity, writing is par excellence.
People from all over the world and throughout history reach out to us.
The voice of someone, perhaps long dead, speaks directly to us;
One of the greatest genuine magic tricks.

Our family, if we turn to the dusty, ancient pages of prehistory,
Began simply and humbly in the oceans of a cooling rock in some insignificant space.
Our self-replicating ancestors multiplied and diversified
Until there came a lucky group, eventually to become rat-like creatures who,
After avoiding the dinosaurs, ascended to the trees, and the primates were born.
Some of them grew tired of swinging in the forests, and climbed down again,
Freeing their hands, and expanding their minds.
With rapidly evolving abilities, they domesticated fire, and then each other.
Then they invented writing and other arts, war, and eventually medicine.
Our technology has given us the ability to write, sing, paint, kill and heal.

The Milky Way could be home to countless thinking beings,
I often wonder what it is they know, and what they can know.
In this vast, strange sea of cold, empty space, can their wisdom reach us?
Unfortunately, when we choose to venture spaceward,
Our arrival will be preceded by centuries of Earthling transmissions,
A few actively sent, but most passively broadcast by our media.
Fortunately, our messages will probably be indecipherable,
But, at the very least, they will recognize the signal as being of intelligent origin,
So we must continue to at least try, because it is the persistence of memory.


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