Hi everyone! I hope all of you out there are doing okay. Just when it seemed that this whole pandemic business was slowing down, at least from our perspective here in Europe, there seems to be cause for caution, caution that perhaps we shouldn’t have relaxed to begin with. I leave those judgements for future historians to discuss with the benefit of hindsight; before I digress any further, let’s go over what I want to say in this blogpost.
Many of my bright colleagues have discussed before in their respective posts about finer details of the amazing science behind DNA nanotechnology, its applied chemistry, and all the meandering paths in-between. Some have shown artistically, humorously, life in the laboratory. But since I get to write this one, I would like to go on a bit of a tangent.
Perhaps it has to do with the morose feeling that permeates this year, fatidic in many senses, but I couldn’t help but to reflect on life, what we do on it, and how science, at least in my personal case, plays a role on it all. How a year that seemed as promising as this one seemed for us, made us, and the world, miss out on so many things from quintessential to superfluous.
Risking being a bit highbrowed, I found solace reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Not that I understood half of it properly, in fact I can’t properly write the title correctly without autocorrect on my side.
Sysyphous Sisifus Sisyphus, for those who might not know him, has to push a heavy rock uphill and see it roll back down every time he reaches the summit as a punishment for Greek stuff he did when alive, sucks to be him. It’s not the main thing of the book, or this blogpost for that matter, but it is a cool metaphor to work with so bear with me here.
Something that I got from the philosophy found in that small book is that life, and the universe for that matter, are inscrutably complicated; our minds are inquisitive and need to understand and assimilate it all. From the clash of this immobile universe and our stoppable search for meaning and understanding, from this conflict, the absurd comes about. Life is absurd (in Camus terms) and by fighting it every single day, that uphill and hopeless battle, we find our single reason to carry on.
To me at first that sounded like being alive purely from spite, but the more I thought about it the more I saw the parallels between that vital impulse, how it is reflected on science across the ages, and ultimately, a message of hope (Although Camus was not a big fan of hope tbh).
Every stretch of the unending road of science is populated by cases of scientists pushing that metaphorical rock over the hill, ever looking for answers, for truth. Best case scenario we reach something new nobody new before, at least with certainty; worst case, we didn’t find that which we were looking for. Regardless of the outcome, the rock will fall down the hill every time, because even with a positive discovery a new incognita appears, a new reason to push that rock of enquiry upwards.
What we must remind ourselves, now more than ever, is that, for every bit of knowledge, big or small, basic or applied, that we take in each iteration, humanity is the wiser and the better. You may help in developing the cure of some disease, improve the industrial process of a product that will improve lives, or inspire the new generations that will come and shoulder this boulder to ever greater heights. Even if it feels that neither of the previous cases apply, something positive will be taken from whatever you do, by yourself or by others that may not even be born yet. Hell, pushing the rock for its own sake is also a worthwhile pursuit.
Perseverance, the constant fight against the universe and for humanity as a whole, against ourselves and for ourselves. One must imagine Sisyphus smiling, and the person pipetting next to him as well.