Poem a Day April 7, 2012

Mitochondria (suggested by Krista)

subtle organelles
power-generators
of true
nuclear
energy

L’Engle wrote
long ago
in time
a wrinkle:
the difference between

what-is-known
and
what-is-not-yet-known
compared to
what-is-no-longer-known

the greatest danger
in science
is unknowing
and not caring
when knowledge is lost

meanwhile
minute
mitochondria
make
music

and we whistle while we work

I first heard the term mitochondria when I was about ten, I think, reading A Wrinkle in Time. What stuck with me was the amazing intricacies of science, how little “ordinary” people know and how easy it would be to forget it all.

I know I read a little about them when I was in high school, when I was studying for a biology test (I never took biology, this was an extra-curricular competition), and then not again until microbiology (see yesterday’s post). Their purpose is simple: take the materials that the phospholipids let through and use them to make power. I like the Cells Alive page about them, it is short and easy to follow. Biology for Kids also has a great explanation. I am always astonished and excited at the infinite possibilities and the rare and wonderful coincidences that create life as we know it.

For me, what popped into my head today was the effort of the bad guys in the Wrinkle in Time series to erase the work and knowledge of science. Science threatens abuses of power. Knowledge threatens despotic regimes. It is true that, generally, life goes on in the wake of serious abuses, but at what cost? Knowing how the world works, the mechanisms that drive life, allows us to enhance, to make choices that can save lives. Yes, knowledge can also be used for evil. But at the risk of getting too far onto my soapbox, I believe that the greater the number of people who understand, who know, the less likely it is that knowledge and science can be used for negative purposes.

I see, today, a rapid and relentless attack on the progress that was made during my own lifetime — a rejection of so many positive things; an attempt to create a new generation of people who know so little they cannot discern fact from fiction and who therefore readily follow any leader who makes pretty promises. As a teacher, my biggest goal in life is to share what I know (admittedly a drop in the bucket) with others, to help them retain excitement and to contribute in their own way to the lives of those around them. In remembering the past, in preserving and promoting knowledge, we can create a future that is ever better.

4 thoughts on “Poem a Day April 7, 2012

  1. Hi! I posted a link to your poem on my tumblr. (meaningfulpatterns.tumblr.com) I’m trying to look for poems about science, and I really liked yours. I hope you don’t mind. Good luck with your writing! I’m also doing napowrimo on my poetry blog. (imbentory.blogspot.com)

  2. Thank you. I think Scientists are necessary for Poetry (remember “Hemo”?), and poetry aids whistling.

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