Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


Ordinary or simply overlooked?

Each time I put gas in my car, or sometimes on long drives, I speculate that there are still molecules of gas in the tank from the very first time the vehicle–a 2011 Chevy–was driven. Given the age of the vehicle and the number of miles it’s traveled, that may seem far fetched, but it has more foundation in reality than many might realize.
One nonfiction writer whose work I always enjoy is Sam Kean. Kean loves to give his books intriguing titles: The Disappearing Spoon, The Violinist’s Thumb, and the book I rely on for my speculation, Caesar’s Last Breath.
If you want the full details, I recommend you find a copy of the book, but according to Kean it is a common thought problem in science-based college courses to ask students to determine the statistical likelihood that anyone walking around on the planet right now might be breathing in an atom that was exhaled as Julius Caesar issued his dying question, “Et tu, Brute?” on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.E.
The answer? An absolute certainty.
If you don’t believe me, look it up. Kean walks the problem through using physics and math, showing how it all works out.
For me, this fascinating information leads to many further speculations–my gas tank being a case in point. I don’t know how long it takes for the uncountable atoms of air we need for each breath to distribute themselves planet-wide, but I’m guessing it’s possible your lungs currently hold atoms breathed in by anyone from a hundred or more years ago. Blackbeard the Pirate. Your own great-great-grandparents. Joan of Arc. Not only Jesus Christ, but Herod.
We’re told about the water cycle–how water is constantly circulating from the clouds to the air to the ground to the rivers to the ocean.  Sam Kean doesn’t work that problem in his book, but what are the chances the atoms of water currently keeping your body functional once served the same role for others?
There’s the sun that makes all life on the planet possible and which warms us all–while also painting skies full of color for us to appreciate. At any moment, part of the planet is watching the sun set and another is seeing it rise.
Our centrifuge of a planet is spinning–at the equator–at a thousand miles an hour. Our speed through space around the sun is 67,000 miles an hour.
All these wonders, taken for granted. If you’ve ever regarded your life as ordinary, you simply haven’t been paying attention.
In this season of wonder, I hold fast to my belief that the most powerful force in the universe is love. I invite you to speculate on and appreciate the wonders in your life. I encourage you to share the awe and joy you find with someone who has lost, or not yet found it. Share your stories. Share your love.


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