odds-ends

John Steinbeck on the Origin of Life

From Travels with Charley, penultimate chapter of part 3

Travels with Charley
My well-worn version – once a High School Library copy – of Travels with Charley

“When, very late in the history of our planet, the incredible accident of life occurred, a balance of chemical factors, combined with temperature, in quantities and kinds so delicate as to be unlikely, all came together in the retort of time and a new thing emerged, soft and helpless and unprotected in the savage world of unlife. Then processes of change and variation took place in the organisms, so that one kind became different from all others.  But one ingredient, perhaps the most important of all, is planted in every life form – the factor of survival. No living thing is without it, nor could life exist without this magic formula. Of course, each form developed its own machinery for survival, and some failed and disappeared while others peopled the earth.  The first life might easily have been snuffed out and the accident may never have happened again – but once it existed, its first quality, its duty, its preoccupation, direction, and end, shared by every living thing, is to go on living. And so it does and so it will until some other accident cancels it.”

-John Steinbeck

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