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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Why are there 1200 varieties of barnacle? How many different expressions of go-nowhere, do-nothing, look-the-same hermits do we need? It doesn't seem fair that Nature effortlessly produces such complexity when humans have such trouble.

We try to think things through, but secretly we'd rather be simple. Complexity may be beautiful but it gives you ulcers. Charles Darwin went the other way. He was the first to study the barnacle thoroughly, to get all the details of one species lined up and on paper before broadcasting his great theories. Imagine the tedium that most of us would feel - lousy English weather, scraped knees, eight years of minute observations. It takes a genius to use boredom wisely. Most of us sit in our shells and try to think great thoughts, but really we're just opening our armored plates every once in a while to take in plankton or procreate. Maybe the crab is a better role model: comical, malign, mobile, aggressive, tasty, vulnerable. Fascinating, though, that Darwin chose the barnacle.

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