A Short History of Nearly Everything

Electric Jellies at the Aquarium of the Pacific

I just finished reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson, and I can’t sing its praises enough. What a wonderful book!  This week, an excerpt.

“I mention all this to make the point that if you were designing an organism to look after life in our lonely cosmos, to monitor where it is going and keep a record of where it has been, you wouldn’t choose human beings for the job.

But here’s the extremely salient point: we have been chosen, by fate or Providence or whatever you wish to call it. As far as we can tell, we are the best there is. We may  be all there is. It’s an unnerving thought that we may be the living universe’s supreme achievement and its worst nightmare simultaneously.

Because we are so remarkably careless about looking after things, both when alive and when not, we have no idea-really none at all-about how many things have died off permanently, or may soon, or may never, and what role have played in any part of the process.


If this book has a lesson, it is that we are awfully lucky to be here-and by “we” i mean every living thing.  To attain any kind of life in this universe of ours appears to be quite an achievement. As humans we are doubly lucky of course: we enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.”


a school of fish, playing it safe.

entitlement brings with it the duty of stewardship.  We are entitled beings, stamping out 20,000 species per year. Or more. We don’t even know, and can never be sure on that number!!  But we have the ability to appreciate what we do have, and more, the ability to slow down or stop the damage. Instead of being discouraged and overwhelmed by the idea that people are causing the next great mass extinction, be grateful for this short period we are permitted

and seriously, read this book.


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