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I was about five when my grandfather held my ear in the Solarium as we watched for cars and tried to guess the color of the next one. And, he quoted Confucius:

“When I reach over and pinch my grandson’s ear for a moment, I hold immortality in my hand.” When I was a child, I took this to mean that I was his immortality since I would live on. And, he did mean that. But I also think that he meant me to remember it when I became a grandfather. So, I pass down this wisdom, originally perhaps from Confucius and perhaps from much older sources.

In any case, when I contemplate their lives, it also means I hold immortality in my mind. I see the unbroken chain of ideas as well as the unbroken chain of biology. We are all part of a great tree of life. And, now we are also part of a giant tree of information. Ideally, the two work together as one. We learn more and as we learn more we use that knowledge to make the tree of life ever more resilient and ever more diverse. The healthier the Great Tree of Life, the more time and energy will be left over for us to learn more and more. Biology and knowledge have a natural virtuous circle. 

Destroying the chain of knowledge and instead corrupting it for selfish purposes will mar the Great Tree of Life. It cannot be otherwise. How can we do what is wise for any part of the Tree of Life, if we are filled with lies? We will utterly fail to be nourishing. The Cancer-Greed will want you to think nothing of the welfare of any life except a small circle which they will, of course, claim to include you in. But focusing that narrowly on life always results in catastrophe. It’s like driving a car in LA traffic while staring at a spot on your steering wheel through a magnifying glass. 

“Short-sightedness can be fatal.” 


Certain experiences jump so easily to mind after many decades much more readily than they have any right to. For example, my grandfather made a wonderful rock garden with a goldfish pond. Once when I was perhaps 5, we sat on a rock and I saw some ants on the ground traveling in a line. He wondered aloud whether they were “sugar ants” or “fat ants.” He claimed that some ants like sugar and others prefer fat. Well, I certainly knew where I stood on that issue and announced, “Oh, they are sugar ants!” We got two little bottle caps and in one, put some sugary water and in the other some lard. (Back in those days, people used lard. It’s true.) 

I knew, even then, that my grandpa was a really smart guy. And, yet, here I was — absolutely sure of the answer without even having to do an experiment. Fat? Yech! Don’t get me wrong. I already loved bacon and nuts. But Lard? What self-respecting ant is going to want to eat that? I certainly wouldn’t!

It didn’t take long for me to be proven right. The ants almost totally ignored the lard and had an entire supply chain set up in minutes for the sugar water. Of course, it’s easy to see now that my reasoning was completely naive and self-centered. But that didn’t mean I believed it any less fervently then. Grandpa designed an experiment and we looked at the results. But it was no experiment to me. I knew the answer — so I thought. It wasn’t as though I thought it more likely that they would go for the sugar. No. I knew they would go for the sugar because that’s what I would do. 

“Pilots who die from running out of gas were sure they wouldn’t when they took off.”


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