Monday, March 29, 2010

A Note on Designing Species

Note: Here's the note. This won't be about interior design, but read on anyway. If you're not satisfied at the end of it, send me a note in return and maybe I can find you the best and prettiest dusters out there, you'll know what I mean
The day dawned with strong winds that sent our backyard trees swaying and bending. It's pretty strange weather for Southern CA--mostly I'm used to hot Santa Ana winds that blow hot and dry in the early fall, but not this chilly blast of wind in early spring. Well, these winds, like any other, have a way of blowing in all all sorts of things from near and far. Pieces of paper, sticks and twigs, leaves and spores, which I first noticed as a fairly thick buildup of yellow dust on my car. I knew weather systems carry winds far, but still I thought it strange that such dust could build up overnight. Then upon close inspection, I saw it was a fine kind of  yellow 'dust', and my son enlightened my that it was not dust, rather it was 'spores!'.
Wikipedia says that spores, in biology, is a reproductive structure adapted for dispersal and survival for extended periods of time in unfavorable conditions. The yellow stuff is composed of spores and pollen, produced during the reproduction of land plants. They are really small cells that plants disperse over long distances to reproduce. The winds carry them over cities and towns, settling on patio furniture and cars, irritating our eyes and noses. With the amount of pollen we have been getting lately, it's surprising we aren't  growing anything in our bodies yet.
Well, another thing blew into our house today, a computer game my son had ordered arrived in the mail. Whaddya know, the game is called Spore! He has been playing with a trial version of it, and liked it so much he decided to buy the whole package. Ecstatic with the new toy, he sat at the computer for hours that day, and I had to do my obligatory parental cease and desist, and haul his butt outside for a walk. All through the windy but pleasant mile and a half we walked and he talked to me about the game.

Here is how it goes. The player gets to be a creator in the game and the goal is to develop a species from a microscopic organism and watch it evolve into a complex animal, and raise it to eventually become a 'social, intelligent being'. Success is measured by the degree to which your creature achieves mastery of the planet and ascension into space, where it interacts with alien species across the galaxy. Whew.

It's interesting stuff, and the whole time he was talking about it I could not help thinking it was a lot like raising children. I thought the analogy/metaphor was so clever and undeniable. The game even had stages such as the 'cell stage' (the part where something super-tiny grows bigger and bigger that needs no further explanation), the 'creature stage' (where the grown spore starts to interact with other species friendly or hostile--sandbox days, preschool?), the 'tribal stage' (where physical development ceases, as does the player's exclusive control over the creature--adolescent years?), the 'civilization stage' (which is basically like the time when the kids finally move out and start their own lives), and lastly, the 'space stage' (when they are well on their way to galactic domination). There is even an 'album' that lets you revisit the miracle that is the physical evolution of your creature.

From the day they start to develop from the 'spores' that they were, all our living and breathing is dedicated to growing them into the best individuals they can be. We spend a good part of our lives raising them, watering them with love and care until such time when they are ready to be 'released' and blown into places hopefully somewhere near, and not too far.

That evening, as the spores sat on the deck eating ice cream, the winds were still at it. It seemed to blow from every corner, and brought a slight chill to the air. Earlier that day my husband dutifully dusted my van free of the yellow dust, but surely in the morning the windows will be thick with it again.

Much later into the night, the winds finally died down and everything grew quiet. The spores had finished their ice cream, asked for a movie and are now safe in their beds. The winds hadn't yet taken them away, and I am thankful for everyday that they are still young and with us, and all I can hope for is that on such a day when the winds pick up again and carry them far, they will land in a good place and bloom where they are planted. Social, intelligent beings, masters of the planet.

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