LIFE AS A SAMIZDAT
Essay by Gustáv Murín
The philosophy of the mower of grass Have you ever seen a guy hunched over and pushing a lawnmower in the garden? I've seen them in their hundreds. Some of them pushed mechanical mowers, others electrical and the richest had small gas mowers. So many technologies and so much effort just for one satisfactory look at someone's private lawn. There's so much other work in this world, so many unbuilt houses, so many machines in need of repair, so many wells to dig out -- and yet their luxury effort with grass makes sense. But not in immediate usefulness in terms of human measurement. This sense is evolutionary and we can call it "remaining in time".
Yes, all of these healthy and powerful guys could get up and go and do something really useful. Yet it is good that they go along on the piece of Earth where destiny has placed them. Without realizing it they are fulfilling the secret task of the "selfish DNA". It remains in different parts of the world and conceals its existence there in human form simply because nobody (not even the seemingly all-powerful "selfish DNA") knows where the right place is for the safest survival. The ones who mow the lawn just for their own pleasure are financially secure, they have a family and children, and they preserve other forms of "selfish DNA" like cats, dogs, guinea pigs or useful breeds. All these are not threatened by hunger and apparent danger. By mowing the grass, they trust in the future. And through this never-ending activity they are occupied so satisfactorily that there is no time for them to stop and start to think about such foolish things as why we are here and what is the meaning of our existence. Because if they were not occupied by this luxurious labor, they might come to the conclusion that our existence has no apparent sense. Let them cut the grass.
Ladder to heaven Have you considered why some of us climb up forbidding peaks where there is nothing, not even the often promised overlook? It would be safer and more comfortable by plane. So, why are they so obsessed to be the first to die on desolate icy plains that, as we nowadays know, offer nothing except an endlessly boring wasteland colored white? Why are they compelled to crawl into steel capsules and descend to the bottom of the ocean although they certainly do not expect us to be able to use such "conquered" territory?
What at first sight is crazy behavior has evolutionary sense. Where the other different form of "selfish" DNA can't go, it'll send these human persons. The reason is that it behaves like Doubting Thomas who never believed what he couldn't see. At the same time it behaves like a blind man who fumbles. It sends us into a wilderness certainly without life to see if there is yet a chance for life. It sends us into desert wastes and into icy plains. It has sent us into the depths of the ocean. All of these as try-out, a warm-up.
The aim of this great effort is clear enough. People are equipped with a brain, because only this can plan and construct the most important task for "genetic carriers" - to overcome the distance between continents and finally the gravitation of the Earth. In our expansion we unwillingly fulfill the role of disseminators of other forms of life too. Some we must take upon ourselves (like plants or domestic animals), some join us against our will (recall for example the rats on the vessels discovering a New World). Thinking to the end, selfish DNA "had to" get to the most suitable variant of the human carrier because the standard form of animal or plant is unable to pass beyond Earth's gravity. This is why it was necessary and useful to wait hundreds of thousands of years until man straightened up, started thinking and achieved social status where some do not need to look after personal survival, but can be interested in something whole senseless - slogging to where it is so cold or on the other hand so hot, where there is neither water nor food and where we cannot even breathe freely. Going to where we are sent by the invisible lady with the initials of three letters - DNA. However, she certainly does not insist that we had to ford and survive the cold waters of space. It is enough for her, if, with our help, new microorganisms, mutated plants or transgenic animals constructed by us is smuggled across. Or, in other words, on the road to heaven the invisible mover of everything needs a reliable ladder. Finally, the whole of human civilization seems to be a complex construction, a starting ramp intended "only" for the spread of "selfish DNA" to the furthest extent possible.
If we desire to find at least a little bit of a dignified place in this mission we could consider ourselves as heralds of a message that is worthy to be spread over the Cosmos. It doesn't have to be either complex information or even a complex sentence. Perhaps this message is just saying that life is possible...
(English translation by James and Viera Sutherland-Smith; edited by Robert Murray Davis)