Where does science end and fantasy begin? Where does illusion end and reality begin? The similarity of these questions would immediately be recognized by a mystic and the rest of us would do well to ponder both questions. In his book Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different From Our Own, David Toomey approaches the frontiers of reality. We all live on this frontier but most of us don’t want to admit it. It’s time to “get real;” our survival depends on it.
What is an extremophile? They are micro-organisms living in extreme conditions, in environments that most of us would never suspect could support life of any kind. “Extremophiles can be found living in ice, under the sea floor, multiplying in clouds or huddled implausibly deep beneath the ground in a newly discovered geologically biosphere. Most of them are just minute rods that grow by fission. But they are chemical factories of extraordinary versatility. As one distinguished microbiologist has put it, if they can find a way of grabbing an electron, they evolve to do so. Nobody knows how many species of extremophiles there are, and many more wait to be discovered, which should be exciting enough.”
Yes, the science of life is exciting, but if we think that we can understand the infinite possibilities inherent in Creation we are short on the quality of humility. Let’s review the process of creation as much as our limited intellect can comprehend. Extremophiles “think.” Did we get that? They are the creature that reasons in the same way we do. “If they can find a way of grabbing an electron, they evolve to do so.” What about us? We obviously evolve. If primitive micro-organisms can use the “One Mind” to adapt to their environment, their context, then surely we can.
Is our fascination with the possibility for life “out there” just a way to distract ourselves from taking responsibility for life “in here;” the imperative of inner transformation? The absurdity or tragedy that an extremophile is more successful at adapting to its environment than we are might leave us doubting the efficacy of the intellect. If so, now would be a good time to reconsider where we should focus our energy—on the changing illusion around us—or the infinitely more fascinating world within.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in the Simple Reality Trilogy
by Roy Charles Henry:
Where Am I? Story – The First Great Question
Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question
Why Am I Here? Behavior – The Third Great Question