I get paid to play. My playground is this great Earth. My playmates include my colleagues, my students and lots of intricately designed critters. God has given me the talents and skill to be a biologist. Following that calling, I get the opportunity to explore what it really means to be “alive”.
I have always been interested in how things work. I have always commented that if I weren’t a biologist, I would probably be a mechanic … but we know most everything about how cars work. In contrast, we know very little about how a sperm and an egg can combine and eventually become a fully developed individual. I can sit for hours in front of a microscope watching as a fertilized egg divides into an embryo with two cells, and then continues with divisions, each cell fated to play some role in forming the organism. I am in awe of God’s creation as I watch these events unfold in front of me.
Then, I get a bit of guilty pleasure when I watch another embryo develop improperly due to some change that I have made its genetic background. People may say that I am “playing God” when I do this, but I feel that I am just playing and God is watching with enjoyment. With some experiments, exactly what I expect to happen does. At these times, I realize that I am starting to understand a little bit about life. However, most of the time, something completely unexpected happens. In these occasions, I am reminded that life is much more complex than the simple diagrams that I want to sketch.
While the experiences of watching other organisms develop are breathtaking, they can’t compare to the magnitude of birth of my son. Knowing that everything I have studied and taught about development had worked together to form a child of my own caused me to weep tears of joy uncontrollably as I held him in the hospital. I revel in times that I can invite my son into “my playground”. I watch as he picks up a leaf and stares at it with intent. Maybe he is starting to see the patterns that follow through the veins of the leaf or the color of the different pigments that give it a majestic forest green on one side and a faded celadon green on the other or maybe he is just wondering if he can eat it. Regardless, I hope that as he grows, I can show him why I feel that I get paid to play.
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