Essays in Idleness


More on beetles

My title this morning is another typical Warren conceit. Really this squib is not about beetles; really it is about something else. But this headnote is entirely between us, gentle reader. Meanwhile, please join me in pretending that we are discussing beetles.

After yesterday’s effusion, it occurred to me to consult my primary literary source on these little animals. It is a short book by Dr Jan Bechyně, published in 1961 (in the “Open Air Guides” series of Messrs Thames and Hudson). It is entitled, Beetles. By “primary” I mean, it first fell into my hands as a child, at a time when I knew even less about beetles than I do today. Originally in German, it is a good example of what is possible when a true expert in a field — in this case, beetle entomology — is commissioned to present the most concise possible outline of what he knows (short of specialist techniques), for people who know nothing, but are presumed to be intelligent.

The author does not try to be entertaining or cute, in the way pop-science picture books try so very hard, today. At no point does he patronize the reader, or try to spare him the effort of acquiring the conceptual framework and necessary jargon of the coleopterist. He simply explains the meaning of each new and terrifying word, as he comes to it; then leaves one to stare until the penny drops. On the other hand, there are six colour plates giving top views of several dozen fine beetles, next discreet size scales, with Latin names and page references to a systematic key, where one will find further line-drawn illustrations in black-&-white. Precise paintings on these plates: of extraordinary beauty, crisply reproduced. That key fills two-thirds of the 158 small pages, and could be your field guide, wherever in this world you might travel.

The child, or adult for that matter, who is enthralled by beetles, will be delighted by the book. It will be, to him, a pearl beyond price; on every page, he will find a revelation. No effort is made to proselytize, however. If you don’t like beetles, you won’t find the book interesting at all, and so, … off you go, bye-bye!

This, I think, is the right attitude to teaching. Give them the goods, straight. And if they are a little slow, as even the most interested students often are, help them over the intellectual mounds. A little unGermanic humour might be permissible, and a friendly atmosphere; a certain approachability together with that subtle hint of discipline from teacher that suggests, “Cross me and you are a dead man.” Or let us mention enthusiasm, which can be contagious. Too, we have this “grammar of beetle zoology” to fall back upon, as a kind of map when we are getting lost.

I will mention here Mr Henry, an American biology teacher I once had in a wonderfully backward British private school, in Asia. (The Patana School, Bangkok, in its underfunded days.) Except that he couldn’t control a class, he was a pillar of authority. He would begin each lesson by drawing an elaborate diagram on the chalkboard; he was a superb draughtsman. By the end of that, only three or four boys would still be paying attention. He would then ignore the nattering at the back of the classroom, and tell us what the diagram showed. At the end of term the front-row elitists would be savagely competing for his highest mark; the other dozen or so would flunk. Their parents would then demand Mr Henry’s removal.

Niloy, Subash, Amitav, and I: we loved this man. And that was the ground for our love of each other. Our rivalries made us inseparable friends; and taught us mutual respect. We became, I suppose, a claque. With Mr Henry we went on exhilarating field trips. If only we could have shaken off the others. We could, I suppose, have contrived to drown them, but did not, thanks to our embrace of a strict moral principle: the sanctity of human life. As for the beetles, we were prepared to dissect them. (It can be done with a magnifying glass, other clever preparations, a very sharp scalpel and a steady hand.)

Ah, “human exceptionalism.” It saves us from so many awful crimes. Yet as I’ve noticed (here for instance) it is going out of vogue.

The author of the piece I linked is affiliated (still, I think) with the “Discovery Institute,” notorious among the sleepy science educators of America as sponsors of research into “intelligent design” — among other scientific interests. He and all others of his ilk are constantly smeared. They are accused of denying “evolution” (which they don’t), of subscribing to “young earth creationism” (which they don’t), of substituting religious for scientific explanations (which they don’t), and so forth. Worst of all, they recognize universal ethical principles which are, shall we say, humanocentric. Most (but by no means all) are Christians. Some are Jews. A few self-describe as “agnostic” or “atheist.” In common, they believe that the received “paradigm” for scientific study, especially in biology, is inadequate and obtuse. This makes them targets for academic persecution.

With Bechyně’s Beetles in my hand I declare, that, half a century ago, Mr Henry was already one of those. Like them, he taught that Darwinian selection is all very well, so far as it goes, but that it does not take us very far; that “the origin of species” is a mystery indeed, to the bottom of which we may never plumb, though we can dip deeper and deeper. And that, those who believe “design” isn’t “intelligent” have never properly observed a beetle.

“Which only a human is capable of doing,” Mr Henry explained. (And proved, with comic zeal.) Though it is evident that many humans do not care.

Let us flunk them.

The stag party

Seldom do I feel much contentment when political labels are applied to me; but there are some I will own, and “stag-beetle Catholic traditionalist” is acceptable. We “stags” are now identified as a component of what is bottled together as the “Alt-Right.” Gentle reader might consult the Wicked Paedia to discover what that term aggregates. I deny affiliation with those Trumpistas. Except the Church, I am a non-joiner.

A beneficial insect (like most; or all, were our view sufficiently broad and catholic), the stag beetle is chiefly engaged in the recycling of dead wood. Alas, since some of this dead wood may be barns or fence-posts, farmers are not always pleased with them. But in the forest, their ecological behaviour is beyond reproach.

It is during their larval stage, as I understand, that these beetles chiefly feed on the delicious juices of arboreal decay, discovered by their boring. Living plants they leave entirely alone. By their fourth or adult stage, when the male deploys his glorious mandibles, I gather that (as the butterfly) he doesn’t eat much. When he does become a little peckish, his “antlers” may be used to steady, say, the piece of rotting fruit on which he may be sucking, to refresh himself and restore his internal liquid equilibria — rather as the philosopher must prevent the matter of his own assimilation from rolling away.

Or, he may engage against another stag beetle, in competition for a mate — the two clashing as miniature reindeer, or mediaeval toy soldiers. My impression is that these knights look fiercer than they are; that the contest is somewhat staged, like professional wrestling. In this age of psychopathic terrorism and “total war,” we forget that much of conflict in nature is bluffing and legerdemain, as so much warfare in antiquity was high-stakes, and visually grand, but low-casualty. Often, as I gather from descriptions, one could go and watch a battle like a football game. Still, the weapons are real enough, and I have never presented a finger to feel how hard these little animals can pinch.

Nature abounds in creatures with appendages of so little practical value that we are safe to assume they express the callistic joy, in the poetics of our Creator, who seems so to delight in beetles, that He brings a new species of beetle into being every day or two, with distinct and highly original decorative flourishes. I suspect this is especially so of the stag beetles — and more than a thousand kindred species of the Lucanidae (as elephant beetles, rhinoceros beetles, giraffe beetles, &c).

And I suspect, in consequence, that the stag beetle is vain. His instinct to remain motionless when approached by a large object is interpreted by the Darwinoids as a survival skill. A moment’s thought will confirm that this would be a very poor survival skill in a creature so conspicuous, and that the stag beetle is instead posing for the camera; perhaps hoping to be included in a selfie, or whatnot.

Or if it’s not a camera, simply holding his ground, as if to say, “Dare ya!” — and show some offstage stag-beetle maiden that he is stalwart and brave, very brave.

As we survey the species, we see that they are beautiful to an extreme, in their glistening black lacquers, or deep brown-reds — sometimes with bright accents, or heraldic patterning. And they are shocking in an ability which the naïve observer might not anticipate. For they can fly.

From ancient times, little boys have attached threads to them, as they did in my childhood in Lahore. And, flown them as prehistoric biplanes, with their sonorous, mechanical buzzing and slow, lumbering turns. The stag’s mandibles are no penalty to him when airborne, for given his armoured weight but slight speed, gravity not drag commands all his efforts. He hardly needs to be aerodynamic. He swings his great arms to distribute that weight like an elegant tightrope walker, strolling an invisible line of thrust.

A fine, a magnificent being, is the stag beetle; truly, an amulet in the great Catholic cause.

Grande dame

The late Phyllis Schlafly was (and remains) a heroine in my eyes. For as long as I can remember, she has been a model of feminine insolence and good cheer: fearless against the enemies of Christian faith and universal reason. Our side (that of the good, the true, and the beautiful) has needed female as well as male soldiering, especially along the front line. The two kinds are not interchangeable, however, as this lady understood. Men do not give birth in their trenches; women do in theirs; and only the two together are equal to the pain of mankind’s exile. We can win battles without them, but need women to win wars. We need daughters resolute, chaste and brave.

Perhaps Mrs Schlafly’s greatest public service was by her tireless work defeating the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, back in the ’seventies. This monstrous congressional enactment was stopped at thirty of the thirty-eight States it needed to be ratified (after it had reached a high of thirty-five). Her campaign, with acronym STOP (“Stop Taking Our Privileges”), was both nervy and brilliant. Generals, and general-lasses, need both qualities; one without the other makes a lost cause.

As Mrs Schlafly clarified, women have traditionally enjoyed many privileges in Western society including — in the day — dependent wife status for tax benefits, separate toilets, exemption from the draft, &c. The feminists of NOW (the fanatic “National Organization of Women”) were campaigning to have all privileges revoked.

From an early time, when it was unforeseeable to others, Mrs Schlafly correctly anticipated the implications of feminist success — that it must necessarily lead not only to the drug and rape culture, and the holocaust of abortions, but specifically to gay marriage, transgenderism, and beyond. (She was mocked for these predictions by the “sisterhood.”) In other areas of politics, including foreign policy, she was as clear-sighted.

Her gift was the masculine one, of cold logical reasoning, combined with the warm feminine one, of prowling, psychological inquiry. She could see how shifts in traditional premisses would twist people, and show just how they would be twisted — how both women and men would be tokenized and demeaned. Her defence of privilege as necessary privilege — her conception of “rights” as according with actual human station, as opposed to some board of abstract automata — took her to the heart of social understanding. It is no accident that the most penetrating anthropological thought has so often been provided by women (from Mary Magdalene forward) — standing, as it were, aside from the “control” functions, exercised by men. For women (the responsible ones, not those sunk in liberationist imbecilities) are not instinctively reductive. Even as observers, they are multi-taskers: seeing what men habitually omit. (They have compensating flaws, and male strength is necessary against the mothering tyranny of women. But we needn’t go into that at the moment.)

Much more should be recovered. As several of my female correspondents insist, it is a terrible insult to the dignity of women that (since 1920 in USA) they have been expected to vote in popular elections.

The influence of women on society — holding together what would otherwise fall apart — is not and cannot be exerted through such deviations. The Nineteenth Amendment (as parallel legislation in other war-ravaged countries) reduced women to the status of participants in a brutish and abominable men’s game, to which women are entirely unsuited (as evidence the number who become unhinged). Over the course of the last century, the consequences of that tragic error have become so obvious that they are taken for granted: the expansion of statecraft into aspects of intimate and domestic life that were never any of the state’s business; and by inevitable consequence, the undermining and incremental destruction of human families.

Yet as political observers, women have often been superb. They look over masculine affairs from a heightened, feminine perspective. By standing above the mechanical processes of politics, they are able to appeal to the masculine capacity for disinterested justice, in a unitive rather than disunitive way. And in doing this they uphold the priority of the homely and religious, over the moral vacuity of state institutions. Men are called to defend that realm in which women are dominant by nature. It is the man’s role to shelter. Take this solemn responsibility away, and it is no wonder that, as today, the great majority of men never pass emotionally, or intellectually, beyond a callow adolescence.

To redefine women as smaller men — to equate the roles and thereby make the mother “theoretically” interchangeable with the father — is to pervert all natural order. It can be done by legislation, only within certain boundaries. When these are crossed, Nature takes revenge; as she has been doing. Mrs Schlafly was eloquent on all this.

More fundamentally, her genius was to be obstinate as a woman, and insolent in the face of the demonic. This involved, in the politics of the post-War, intervention in that formerly male preserve which had been turned topsy-turvy — an unavoidable concession to the times. This mother of six, who for many years could only think and write about public questions in the time after her last and youngest had been put to bed (for she refused to demand the emasculation of her husband), accomplished miracles of persuasion. Until the day before yesterday, she was physically present in the struggle for the best obtainable political results — a voice of extraordinary resolution.


I have had the honour to know, since childhood, many strong, independent women. I think particularly of several who made their way, towering alone. Their example inspires me to the present day: I think of such women and remember, if not my courage, at least what courage is.

I wrote once an essay on “The Modern Spinster” — a class to which I added women who had (by war and accident) long outlived their husbands. Born, typically, before the turn of the last century; widowed perhaps in the Great War; some had survived into the 1980s. They were impressive figures of pedagogical authority. We had, even here in the once admirable Province of Ontario, women I would rank with empress-dowagers of China. They were irreplaceable pillars of a society that I have watched disintegrate, over the decades since. Not one of them was a feminist, or could be interpreted as one by any fanciful act of the imagination. Each was fully a Woman.

Two converging points: First, that their power can be neither appreciated nor understood, in a society that has so far degenerated that sex (not grammatical “gender”) is dissolved in an androgynous slurry. Second, that there can be no such thing as an independent woman, who would exchange her position for that of a little man. Who could anyway wish “equality” with any of these strangely unnatural, mole-like creatures we have today — whining, whingeing, whimpering from the “safe spaces” in the hollows of their heads?


It is true that Mrs Schlafly endorsed Donald Trump, earlier this year. I note the view expressed by the (still living) Father Zed: that against Hillary Clinton, he would vote for the corpse of Millard Fillmore. I’m with him there; it is only at the prospect of “the Donald” that I hesitate. However, I’m prepared to make a concession. In commemoration of my late heroine, Phyllis Schlafly, I will permit one (1) of my USA readers to vote for Mr Trump in the coming election. (You know who you are.)

The wake-up call

My neighbour went off for the long weekend. She must have the same small Bose CD-player as I do. It has an alarm function, and I hear precisely the same repeating note that comes from mine when I set it. The sound would get anyone out of bed. Even at low volume, it fills one’s head, allows no other thought. Then it increases to the full volume, until it is tupped. The machine is plugged into the wall; there is no battery to go dead, eventually, as in cars when their burglar alarms are interminably sounding. (It does shut down after a few hours, then resumes next morning.) At intervals I must remind myself that my neighbour is a very nice person, who innocently “forgot”; that homicide would not be justifiable, in this instance.

Begin with a button off your best shirt.
Or: your mate, car, children
born and unborn. Someone steals your luggage,
a kind of rape. The first time is the worst. …

These lines open a poem by an old friend (Fraser Sutherland), entitled, “Forms of Loss.” It seems I published them in my Idler magazine, thirty years ago. Somehow they capture the essence of modern life.

One might bore gentle reader with other recurring instances, on this morning of our North American “Labour Day” (like “May Day” in Europe, less the overt Marxism). Traffic is light, today; but the din of half-a-dozen “home improvement projects” instead fills the air, and a ghetto-blaster has now cut in. Soon the annual airshow will be resuming (supersonic jets passing low overhead).

For there are three things with which our contemporaries cannot cope, even for one minute: stillness, silence, and simplicity.

An answer, I suppose, is to move into a log cabin, so far away, that only the tax collector will find you. But that is to forget the bears, the mosquitoes and black flies, and the Canadian winter. Alternatively, there may be an unoccupied atoll in French Polynesia.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”

That, I suppose, would be God’s merry greeting to us on Labour Day — the ancient, repeating message, that there is no way back to the garden, of Eden, or of childhood; that the arrow leads only forward, through death. The forms of loss are progressive, cumulative, and finally, comprehensive.

“Loss is given us, and we take it.” (Sutherland, again.)

Notwithstanding, one is reminded — especially on Labour Day, for some reason — that most of our work is counter-productive. Most of what I hear clamouring around me goes only towards making the world noisier, more perplexing, and more vile. It is thanks, I suppose, to our need for labour-saving devices, that we are caught in an unprecedented course de rat.

On leadership

To the surprise of many Christians, Christ turns out not to be the sort of leader who promises stuff for nothing. He is not a politician looking for votes, who will deliver what the people want, on pizza trays. (In baskets, once, but that was an unusual case.) He says uncomfortable things to His supporters, such as, “Shape up.” He says this especially when He gets them alone; but does not hesitate with crowds, either. The “empathy” is there — or rather an unearthly, almost inapproachable kindliness, which is not as advertised in the brochures. He is more like a Marine commandant, than a grief counsellor; He does not seem to hear our excuses.

(“Rise, let us be on our way.”)

He sends us into battle, and not against a pretend Enemy. And did you know that the Saints who truly love Him, cuss at Him sometimes?

An earlier Mother Teresa — of Avila, not Calcutta — was capable of repeating the old mediaeval saw: “When I see how you treat your friends, Lord Jesus, I don’t wonder that you have so few.”

The Mother Teresa who will be canonized tomorrow (a little too soon after death, in my view) was, in my own brief sight of her, not only physically small and wiry, but tough as nails. She was a school marm, on top of her other virtues; she had been principal of St Mary’s convent school, in Calcutta — which is why she got respect even from such as Indira Gandhi (who attended St Mary’s convent school, in Allahabad). She was officer-class: could command obedience. I interviewed once Sister Nirmala, her successor (who died last year, age eighty-one). She assured me that our twentieth-century Saint Teresa was no putz. Her nuns had to deal with lepers, with the dying, with abandoned babies, and hard-case orphaned kids. This is entirely unlike a vacation.

To this day, and even round the corner in Parkdale here (for I’m three blocks away from the local Missionaries of Charity franchise), many of their customers are charmless. Why, just this morning I was looking at one. Not the sort of person with whom I should like to share a flat.

Teresa’s love was of the Christian kind, which is to say: burning. There were eyes and — sometimes, not always — a smile that could put you on your knees. She was infallibly polite, I should mention; but I would not have called her a “nice” person.

One of her nuns once fetched me a glass of water. I feel as though I were still sipping it.

My favourite, of all her wonderful sayings, is: “I wouldn’t touch a leper for a million dollars!” (This is an American translation; originally she had indicated, “a thousand pounds.”) Said, with almost the flippancy of a Valley Girl. This caught one’s attention admirably. And with perfect, Bengali comic timing she would add, “I only cure him for the love of God.”

A minor observation, to be sure, but I think this is also worth mentioning: that she had, for some occasions, a “wicked” sense of humour. She was thoroughly equipped, to stay sane. Feet on the ground; no floating angel. Even though she was very light. Not an inch over five feet; thin, and somewhat crook’d in old age, for if she had wings, they weighed upon her.

(And by the way, she was aggressively “pro-life.”)

We perhaps underestimate the need for sanity in our leaders. Most of those we select appear to be not only humourless, but mad. This is not surprising. For the successful politician, in a progressive democracy, makes his living as a salesman, by flattering people. If he’s very good at it, he may go to the top. (Ability and experience are unnecessary.) The people must be flattered; they must never be told the truth about themselves. Especially while they are waiting for their pizza.

Perhaps it is the effort to sustain the lies that uncouples them from the golden chariot; leaves them running to keep up; desperately pounding. (“Don’t hop on the Great Chariot,” sage Confucius told us in his Book of Songs, “you will only be covered with dust.”) Finally they collapse in uncomprehending exhaustion, gasping for oxygen as the political lifeguards carry them away. Being a Saint can be quite hard work; but being a fraud is probably harder.

(“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”)

Nobody elected Mother Teresa. The only permission she got was from her (male) superiors. Having got this permission, she then went, precisely where the Spirit led her: from the modest office in her nice clean school into the darkest, dankest slum.

We do not need any more politicians. Every one of them fails. We need leaders, instead. It is more than that: we need real leaders, and the only reliable ones are sent by God.

(Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.)

Trump l’oeil

Really, I don’t care whom the Americans elect as their president — so long as it isn’t Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump. From correspondence, I gather many of my USA readers feel the same. (Others are harder to follow, through the obscenities.) They won’t be voting, and refuse to be intimidated by the argument that if you are against one, then you are ipso facto promoting the other. It is possible to be opposed to both; and while there may be jurisdictions in this world wherein one is compelled to vote, even those must contend with spoilt ballots. To vote “tactically” is to enmesh oneself more threadily in the selection of poisons.

The worst argument I have found for supporting Trump, specifically, or any candidate in any election, is that he will provide “hope” for some downtrodden constituency. As I opine in my Thing column today (here), “I think Trump would do for unemployed, blue-collar American whites, what Obama has done for the ghetto blacks: make their position considerably worse, within a society more fatally divided.”

Liberal mass media (not only in USA) make me want to support Trump, and may well help him to the presidency. Were I his political adviser I would tell him to bait them remorselessly. Happily, I am not. The media smears and misrepresentations of that candidate; their suppression of news unfavourable to the other — are an open goad to an electorate ever more inclined to do the opposite of what the media tell them. But I do not think one ought to be goaded, one way or the other, by writers of so low a moral and intellectual height. We should try to ignore them, even though, like pornography, their “journalism” is everywhere in our faces.

Given a choice only between two evils, one may be obliged to prefer the lesser one. But here there is no compulsory choice. The idea that one must vote in a democratic election is like the idea that one must choose between flood and fire. (Of course, once the firemen arrive, you may have both.) One might choose instead to prepare for either, and endure what comes.

And besides, an extremely low turnout can serve as an electoral statement.

Hope, in this world, is misplaced. The (attempted) appropriation of “hope” by politicians can leave only deep scars. The real choice is between religion and politics: ultimately between the teaching of Christ, and profane teaching. To be drawn into the political “narratives” is to be drawn out of the “narrative” for salvation. The good is available to direct, selfless human action; it cannot be delegated to class representatives, nor enforced through political coercion. Whether to Heaven or to Hell, no one goes involuntarily.

Thus, I do not advocate revolution, which can only be another political act. Instead I recommend an ever more conscious aloofness from political processes.

Verily: the exact opposite of what I am now reading from Rome, under the title, Humanam Progressionem.

We are all foreigners here; we are all the equivalent of “undocumented immigrants,” so far as this world goes. So far as we are Christians, we were baptized into another order. We must not allow ourselves to be tricked, by the flash hand of any politician, into pretending that we are citizens here.

The slime chronicles

We see that the Australians who specialize in spotting fossilized slime in early terrestrial rock have performed another coup in Greenland. One might need to be a palaeobotanist to fully appreciate a stromatolith bouquet, but there it is (see here), inscribed into the Isua greenstone belt through the hills behind Nuuk, where volcanic rocks of 3,700 million years’ antiquity are to be found (by radiometric dating). We have pushed back the frontier of life on Earth another 200 million years plus, from similar findings in Western Australia, according to pop-science media — moving ever closer to some imagined evolutionary interface between physics and biology.

Alternatively, we are looking at ancient mineral accretions from evaporating sea water; but there you go. It could be biotic slime, of the sort we can observe today, microbially cementing layers of sediment to construct stone pillows in exotic shapes. And it might do for an image of the primordial gunge which, ever since Darwin, has served for a quasi-explanation of how Evolution got started.

The Earth is hypothesized to be 4,600 million years old (give or take a few ten-millions). Our proto-planet was bombarded from space continuously, and is supposed to have collided with another spinning proto-planet about the size of Mars, creating the mess that was finally resolved as Earth-and-Moon. Tranquillity was not to be had for some time, according to this cosmology, and metamorphic processes within the planet continue to the present day. All trace of life prior to, say, 4,000 million years ago, will have been cooked beyond the possibility of recognition.

The find in Greenland pertains to a little patch exposed by melting snow, smaller than a football field, which hypothetically escaped the intense baking, and floated through all later geological subductions. Well spotted, indeed!

A human body contains many trillion (millions of millions) of fairly cooperative living cells. Each of these cells contains a few million protein-coding genes. The microbial life imputed in this case is simpler, to be sure, but still incredibly complex. The degree of this complexity is under-appreciated.

We are often told that we share 98 percent of our genes with monkeys; but did gentle reader know that we also share around 60 percent with their bananas? I mention this otherwise pointless little fact, and compound it with the observation that genes can express themselves in myriad ways, to suggest the amount of choreography required to get anything reproductively genetic. As Nutman et al. acknowledge in their Nature piece, the ancestral slime imputed to their Greenland stone would already need to have been so biologically sophisticated as to require a very long previous evolutionary process.

Alternatively: the metamorphoses can happen rather quickly. This would be consistent with the entire known fossil record, in which we nowhere find creatures that are awkward. The closer we can investigate any one, the more we find it beautifully adapted to its spatial and temporal niche — coming into the geological record as a distinct item for aesthetic contemplation, and then making off; each with its entrance and its exit, from the cosmic dance. Here is its curtsy, there is its bow.

It was an Australian — a certain Lance Endersby from Hobart, Tasmania — who first introduced me to the powers of a microscope, and the thrill of examining smears of slime from the pond in his tropical (Bangkok) garden, whenas I and his two sons were wee boys. I saw things there, on the microscope slides, that blew my little head clean away, and I cannot say it has since had a chance to reassemble.

Later, I encountered this passage from Isaiah:

For thus saith the Lord that created the Heavens,
God himself that formed the Earth,
And made it, the very maker thereof.
He did not create it in vain:
He formed it to be inhabited!