I want everyone reading this to do something. I want you to look at your hand for a moment, and think about the following:
Every atom in your hand was once part of a star. Not only a star, but several stars, which exploded and spilled their enriched innards into space, to be reprocessed in other stars.
Stars are the engines of creation, the furnaces that produce new types of atoms. Those atoms became part of a planet, which, through a long and tortuous series of events, became hospitable enough to generate, in some corner of itself, the phenomenon we call life.
Those atoms, in your hand: those atoms have seen worlds that predate all our dreams, that extend back in time to unspeakable antiquity. Those atoms, if they could speak, would tell you about worlds where the sky was red, where the oceans, which were green or frozen white, were filled with trillions of denizens of an early form of life, a life that knew no morality or any conception of itself. A world in which reason makers didn’t exist, but where reason did: in the imperative to survive and reproduce.
This unconscious reason, this archaeo-purpose, as Richard Dawkins has called it, is why the myriad and bountiful garden that inhabits this thin sliver of rock exists, on a planet that has circled around a star for over four and a half million centuries.
These atoms would tell you about worlds that were punctuated by cataclysms, and that laid the foundations for new flowerings. They would tell you about the majestic beasts we call dinosaurs, and how their dynasty reigned for six hundred times longer than our own species has roamed on this Earth.
For these atoms were themselves part of the dinosaurs, and the wasps, and the fish and the seas and the clouds.
Those atoms: they traveled through the body of a mother Allosaurus, through the body of an ancient spider, and later an early hominin who looked up at the night sky and, perhaps, had a fleeting sense that there were other worlds beyond our own.
Those atoms would tell you about countless sunsets, some polluted by the debris from a collision with an extraterrestrial object. And they would tell you about the countless beings who were came and went, and how they changed.