I was recently cajoled into participating in Facebook. My first foray into social networking was pretty much a disaster. Seemed like the riffraff of my past rose to the top. This time is different. This time the cream has risen and reminds me of so many important things that have become muddled by years of living.
One of those rediscoveries is Charles Darwin. How do I get from Facebook to Darwin? Well, in spite of all the media coverage about his 200th birthday, I had been merely nodding recognition and passing the butter. Through Facebook, I reconnected with my old friend Ric Brown, now an esteemed professor at Pratt. Looking through his course materials, I found links to many cool things... one of them being Darwin's Beagle Diary annotated and put into a Blogger Blog.
Anyone who knows me, knows that Darwin is one of my greatest heros. But more importantly as a farmer, Darwin's art of observation is precisely the skill needed to build a deep working understanding of the farm ecosystem. He puzzles through so many conflicting bits; holds on to so many loose ends; and recognizes the importance of the obvious in a uniquely darwinian way. Pouring through Darwin's diary is intellectually inspiring in a way that is at once abstract and practical.
I recommend that anyone who has the urge to dust-off their relationship to Darwin, do a little survey review, and use the meditation to celebrate one of the most important scientists of the modern world.
It is so satisfying that we can have friends that keep us connected -- not only to our own past -- but also to connect our past to the fabric of history itself -- Facebook as a manifestation of Hegelian Sprit? Ok, that's a stretch. But it is true that we tend to forget more than we learn -- i.e., we relearn the same lessons many times in the course of our lives. It is quite reassuring that we can retain more of our better selves by taking an active interest in our friends.
Thanks Facebook. Thanks Ric for staying in academia!
And Happy Birthday Charles Darwin.