Count Your Blessings & Watch Your Worms

Originally posted April 1, 2008

Lately I’ve been reading the writings of the Darwins: the bearded ferocity of Charles and his lesser-know wife, Emma. We apply his name to to any sharp competition (the most obvious being Athletic Darwinism — a silly phrase), but when it came to his domestic habitat, CD was a pussycat, a constant invalid, whose dependence on Emma was quite complete. Their home life was devoted, warm, funny. I’m especially taken by the tale of the family assisting Charles as he researched the sensory powers of worms. Bernard provides the high notes of a whistle. Frank offers a bassoon’s bass. Emma pounds the piano. Charles takes notes. And yet there was a significant rift. Charles was an agnostic, dedicated to the scepticism of scientific inquiry. Emma was a devout Christian. This was a source of much pain for them, especially in Emma’s worry for his soul. Yet the partnership endured.

How did the Darwins find respect across the divide between science and faith? Why can’t we? This year, I aim to explore the question in reading, looking at social models, playing in the studio, noticing my own relationships, and listening to the nudge of spirit.

Here’s a link to a site with Darwin’s worm monograph:
http://charles-darwin.classic-literature.co.uk/formation-of-vegetable-mould/

And to a book which their daughter Henrietta wrote about Emma:
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/1490

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