Thursday, December 1, 2011

Genes, Words, Us

The evolution of life
Cannot be comprehended
By change in gene frequencies.
Life is not that meaningful.
If the measure of success 
Were truly taken by genes,
Life would be data, unhusked.

Genes encode meanings, themselves
Inert and too unselfish
To be the source for so much
Unbridled motivation,
The relentless hungering
To keep going and going
And going that defines life.

Because genes are meaningful,
We like them. We decode them,
Enjoy their cryptography,
Order them, count them, name them,
Chart evolution by them,
Measure life's incremental
Degrees of separation

Mutation by mutation,
And working backwards believe
That, mutatis mutandis,
We can arrive at the source
Commands of all living things,
Perhaps to reorder them
More to taste, lively prospect.

There's little doubt we'll manage
To do some clever damage,
And in so doing we'll be
Executing one more turn
In the spiral of desire
Through carbon and oxygen,
Data and catalysis

That shows no sign of ending,
Inventing death and meaning,
Sex, war, and altruism,
Ruthlessness and compassion,
Waste, consumption, and science,
Means to more means without end,
That which keeps going going.

Products of life, we value
Life for its products, but life
Roars through its products as fire
Roars through the bonds of atoms,
Fire in reverse, making more
And more of what it consumes:
Genes, words, us--these bonds life's fire makes.

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