Picture a big steel box. Strewn about the box are some child’s blocks, the kind with letters on the sides. We place a rat in the box, to do as it pleases. It has enough food and water to live out a normal rat lifespan.
Then we let nature takes its course. Suspend any ethical reservations you have about putting a rat in a box like that — assume it is perfectly happy with this scenario, and even signed a release form.
The rat will live its whole life in that box, eating, exploring, poking at the blocks, maybe knocking some of them over and pushing them around. Eventually it will die of old age. Its corpse withers away or is removed by the night janitor.
Once the rat is dead and gone, we again have an empty box with blocks in it, same as at the start. It’s almost as if the rat’s life never happened — except there is one difference between the start of the experiment and the end: some of the blocks inside will now be in a different place.
The force that moved them was life itself. This new arrangement of the blocks — however random, pointless, meaningful or beautiful it ends up being — is the net effect of this rat’s life. The new landscape it left is the lasting impact it had on its world. It is evidence that says, “Ratty was here.” Read More