How, What & Where

Donald Culross Peattie
An Almanac for Moderns
“December Fifteenth”

Three questions … three wishes.

A philosopher with a biological turn of mind has to ask himself three questions. How does life do what it does? What is it made of and how put together? And where does it find itself in the universe? You might take these questions in any order, but that is the order in which they occur to most of us, and in which they have occurred to me as I “watch things grow from the beginning,” from the first pale upshooting of spring till the frost upon the head of the dying year. First the performances of life startle us into a questioning frame of mind, a discontent with all our old ideas. So that to understand function we go back to structure. But structure turns out to be so complex that inevitably we return to environment, the inanimate world out of which life somehow builds itself. And the environment is the earth, and yet not the earth only, but the cosmos.


The astronomers must tell me what it is I see, explain the laws by which the cosmos works, and reenact for me the birth of worlds.

Good thoughts for a winter’s night.

And so for day 3157

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