Inchoate Assay

This is the Golden Assay, and at the moment that is all I know. It would be a mistake to make pronouncements or provide explanations about what I’m trying to do here. This is only the beginning, and one cannot begin to identify I thing before it has even begun to form. A human embryo and a pig embryo are indistinguishable for the first 45 days of gestation. What separates them is potentiality, the invisible but innate.

Beginnings are eventful but unimportant. What matters is that the thing persists and develops. I want to say that we celebrate things like anniversaries and birthdays not to commemorate the beginning of something but to express relief and surprise that it continues to survive. A false start is still a start. It is a start that fails to turn into something else. All major animal phyla we encounter today radiate from a few colonies of micro-organisms that lived a half-billion years ago. But before these, Ediacara biota grew in the earth’s sulfur-saturated oceans. These were the first complex organisms. Their shapes are preserved in per-Cambrian rock. Beside this we know very little else about them. They do not appear to resemble any terrestrial life we are familiar with, whether alive today or preserved in the fossil record. The first life on earth is in fact completely alien to the earth we know. It is possible that none of the major animal phyla evolved from the Ediacara biota. At the dawn of the Cambrian era, when the oceans’ chemical content altered abruptly with increased oxygen and carbon, the Ediacara biota were starved of whatever it was the fed off of and were made extinct. Afterward, there was a pause. For a period of several million years, the earth was dead, once again; just as it had been when it first began. Finally, new life emerged. Cambrian organisms grew that could thrive in the earth’s new conditions and evolve adaptions to diverse environments. These Cambrian organisms would become origin of all of today’s flora and fauna, and the Edriacara biota today are just shapes in stone. The Tree of Life, at the top of which we now preside, grows out of the empty remains of life’s failed beginning.

Picture from Verisimilus at en.wikipedia

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