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Walk through a well-flowered meadow in the springtime, and the scents are bound to lift and refresh you. But what is that, what is "scent"? It is no more than tiny particles of the flowers and the grass themselves, and of the trees and perhaps even the dirt, shaking off and wafting up, so tiny as to be suspended in the air itself, transported on a breeze. Now, naturally, not every smell that comes upon us is a pleasing odor, and it may be distressing even to contemplate the reality, that when we detect the scent of urine or excrement or sour milk or a rotting corpse, it is because pungent particles of that very thing are drifting around in our nasal cavity, floating in there a half inch shy of our brains. In truth, experiments have show that, as to solid waste and decomposition at least, most of the smell comes not from solid particles, but from more basic gasses exuded by bacterial processes. But with a few exceptions, smelling something is by itself not dangerous or harmful, for all that is happening is that those particles are meeting receptors inside the nose, which are then sending an electrical signal to the brain corresponding to one or another of many chemical signatures to which the receptors are attuned.

Not everything exudes a scent discernible to the human nose. And yet, the particles still are there, sloughing off of almost every thing in the world, all the time, a series of invisible clouds through which we traipse for our every moment of existence. We only barely become aware of the largest of these floating particles, the ones visible to the naked eye, when we see the particles of dust dancing in a beam of light. We think them tiny, but they tower like skyscrapers next to the individual skin cells which we have shed, which float constantly and effortlessly in this eternal dance. And those skin cells are themselves monumental put alongside the lowly bacterium who coast about us like aerial plankton.

I was not long ago walking through a pristine part of the city nearest my home on a very crisp and clear day, and I saw the sharp outlines of buildings against the sky, trees, people going about their business; and I reflected on how hard it must be to imagine that all of these things, these solid tangible objects and distinctive persons, could simply be going on within a greater energy, a creative energy, and could be of that energy. But then I thought, it must be equally hard to imagine that all this stuff is, in a purely physical sense, no more than molecules, electrons whirring and leaping about with forces both drawing a repelling them from protons, with mostly empty space in between. That the electrons and protons and neutrons which make up the granite wall are no different in anything but immediate number from those which compose the gentle breeze, and in it the waving trees. So as difficult as it is to imagine the one, so it is with the other.

And yet we know that our keyboards and our typing fingers and the air around them are all simply electrons and protons and neutrons and whatever half dozen force-carrying particles are there. So I see no great leap from that level of thinking to those fundamental particles simply being the a temporarily dispersed intelligent and energy, taking this particulate form simply to exist as the particles of us.



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