4 July 2009

The brotherhood of men and cabbages

You marvel that this mater, shuffled pell-mell at the whim of chance could have made man, seeing that so much was needed for the construction of his being. But you must realize that a hundred million times this matter, on the way to human shape, has been stopped to form now a stone, now lead, now coral, now a flower, now a comet; and all because of more or fewer elements that were or were not necessary for designing a man. Little wonder if, within an infinite quantity of matter that ceaselessly changes and stirs, the few animals, vegetables and minerals we see should happen to be made; no more wonder than getting a royal pair in a hundred casts of the dice. Indeed it is equally impossible for all this stirring not to lead to something; and yet this something will always be wondered at by some blockhead who will never realise how small a change would have made it into something else.
-- from Voyage dans la lune (1661) by Cyrano de Bergerac, quoted in Lightness, one of Six Notes for the Next Millennium (1985) by Italo Calvino.

Image by Johannes Kepler, 1611.

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