THE BIG JOKE

Yucca Valley, San Bernardion County, CaliforniaMarch 17, 1988
 
CALIFORNIA: San Bernardino County
 
Off CA Hwy. 247 about 15 miles north of Yucca Valley

In the San Bernardino Mountains' rain-shadow at an elevation slightly too low for Joshua-trees, but just right for their near kin the Mojave yucca, where one-quarter of the species are endemic and the presence of a boulder can determine whether a green splotch of wildflowers appears, I become transfixed by a certain mental image: That of living things evolving forward, perpetually crystallizing their needs into ever more elegant adaptations.

Not ten miles to the northeast lies Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Bassustainse. During my tenure upon this perch, day and night, I've heard explosions. Last night they awakened me with their artillery practice. In a way, these explosions are similar to birdsong, white fuzz on a desert sunflower's leaf, and the rapid evolution of the AIDS virus. Let me tell you about one of my theories.

Every night here in the desert as I look into the stars this question comes to mind: Since we are just one planet in a solar system in a run-of-the-mill galaxy among billions of galaxies in the Universe where opportunities for life to arise must exist in billions of places, why aren't we seeing evidence of that life? I have a theory that supplies an answer.

Surely no matter what kind of life might arise anywhere in the Universe, it will have to evolve, like Earth's, from a simple form to a more complex one. Moreover, during any life-form's evolution, surely it will have to compete with other life forms. So these suppositions form the background for the Big Joke, which is this:

Any species fighting its way to the top of any evolutionary pyramid will be programmed by its genes to be so aggressively competitive, to be so arrogantly obsessed with its own comfort and hungers, to be so insensitive to other life-forms' needs, and to dominate all other life forms at all costs, that that life-form's behavior inevitably will be self destructive. It will kill itself and possibly all other life on its planet by destroying the biosphere which sustains all life. The Universe is programmed both to spawn life, and maintain itself as a gorgeous desert.

On my perch, with explosions from Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base rolling across the valley and around me surrounded by boulders I feel as if I am getting the joke, and beholding the joke fulfill itself.

As I type the above, a Side-blotched Lizard, Uta stansburiana waltzes across the sand before me. It's a new species for us, famous for... the dark blue to black blotch on its side.

Ha ha ha!

Go to Next Entry
Return to the Desert Index
Links on this page were last updated on . If you find broken ones, please email me.