Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another year ends

We're winding down.

Tomorrow I will wander over to the windowsill, pluck a few snowpeas who know only our classroom, and eat them. I will remind the students that their breath was combined with water, using the energy of the sun.

Communion without fanfare, a miracle unrecognized.

And if a few students leave class this week, our last few days of class, pondering the mystery of biology, the flow of energy, the flow of life, well, I've done my job.

I spent countless hours as a child trying to figure out transubstantiation. The wafer tasted like, well, a wafer, but the priest assured me it was the body of Christ.

In my head I imagine molecule after molecule substituting another. I did not know the concept did not originate until a thousand years after Christ's death.

This is my body.

And it is, complex organic molecules fused together by plants, abetted by the nitrogen fixing abilities of bacteria. In physical terms, at the molecular level, we are, truly, what we eat.

And everything we eat ultimately gets back to plants. OK, sunlight. Well, yeah, to something over 10 billion years ago.

We had some births in class, we had some deaths. Most of our tanks are unfiltered, unprocessed--light in, air in, and the occasional flakes of crushed shrimp. We have 2nd generation peas and wheat and fish and third generation snails and umpteenth generation of transformed bacteria that fluoresce.

We have the shells of horseshoe crabs and land snails, starfish and whelk.

Our class witnessed a starfish consume a snail, a shrimp snack on a hermit crab. None of this planned, all of it inevitable.

I am not a particularly religious man. My faith rests in the sun, in the plants, in life. I do not pretend to grasp the why of anything in science, and I do not ask my students to grasp anything I cannot see myself.

We do a lot of observation in B362. We see more than we can understand. We form hypotheses, we see hypotheses smashed, and we form new hypotheses.

I'm not sure how my lambs did on the state test, though historically they do well enough.

They leave my classroom more confused now than when they entered back in September.
And that's OK. That was the goal.

The world is, well, awesome. A fresh snowpea of a windowsill plant tells me so.

1 comment:

John T. Spencer said...

I ate the first ripe tomato of the season. When it's fresh off the vine, there's no question of whether it's a fruit or vegetable. It's sweet (and regardless of the science behind the definition, that's how I define fruit).

I didn't bother to wash it, either. Somehow it felt like it needed to be eaten wild, untamed, unvarnished. Perhaps that makes me crazy. But then again, it's even crazier when I eat something frozen from a box.

I thought of grace after eating the tomato. Then I thought of you. Just thought I'd let you know. Spirituality grows.