We are not alone (to be human is to be part-virus)

We now know that we “humans” are in fact a mixture of lots of species. For instance our DNA is 8% of viral origin. The mitochondria that produce power within all of our cells were originally bacterial species that we absorbed and recruited to work for us.

One way in which Darwin was WRONG – is that evolution happens in leaps and bounds, not gradually. There are long periods of genetic stability within populations, and then there is a huge leap forward. That can be caused by a dramatic shift in environment of course; but the really big moves have been when our DNA has been combined with others.

Since I finished my degree in vertebrate evolution in 1979 – we have discovered so much about where we came from. Take transposons. Heard of these? Well it now seems that big chunks of DNA get passed around between species. That’s LATERAL evolution. Or what about reverse transcriptase. That’s a mechanism by which RNA can be “read back” into the genetic material that codes it; and why can’t that genetic material then be passed down to descendants? In other words Lamarck was right (or at least part right) – what happens in our bodies can and does influence our genes and therefore the next generation.

Anyway – we are not alone. What appears to be the distinct species – Homo Sapiens – is actually a constantly changing and linking melting pot of lives and species.

Who knows maybe Coronavirus is a blessing – and somewhere in the RNA killing machine there’ll be a bit of code that we’ll make use of. And then, perhaps the next Great Leap Forward will be when we – as bits of biology – combine with machines and algorithms to become another wave of recombinant life? The idea of part man- part machine has always seemed terrifying to me. But perhaps this is all part of God’s loving plan? Maybe this is where Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was pointing when he predicted (in the 1950’s) that our invidividual consciousness would merge and emerge as something conscious of love and God – at the Omega point.

Ramblings? Of course – because who actually knows what comes next – ramblings and musings are a way of contouring and contouring what the future may hold.

Nursing, thin red line o’eroes

In 1890 Rudyard Kipling wrote his poem “Tommy” – reading and words below. 130 years ago soldiers were the cannon fodder, heroes when the nation needed them – discarded and rejected when the fighting was over.

It strikes me that nursing, and all the staff of our NHS are the modern day equivalent. If you substitute Tommy – the soldier with Nurse, Porter, Doctor – in the poem you get a similar sense?

We must not forget their service, as we did with the injured soldiers in the 1890’s and since.

For reading click here …tommy – rudyard kipling

Tommy – Rudyard Kipling

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,

The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”

The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;

But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,

The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,

But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;

But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,

The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,

O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;

An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”

But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,

The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,

But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,

There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,

O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Cholera Camp extract

Rudyard Kipling

“Twould make a monkey cough to see our way o’ doin’ things —
Lieutenants takin’ companies an’ captains takin’ wings,
An’ Lances actin’ Sergeants — eight file to obey —
For we’ve lots o’ quick promotion on ten deaths a day!”