The Science of Oneness
Valedictory Speech
Saturday June 8, 2002
Porter College Graduation Ceremony
University of California, Santa Cruz

Late morning sun is warm and bright, here at the June edge of a Santa Cruz summer. A fabulous condition. The oceanic crowd of family and friend fills the Porter quad, churning around the island of black-robed soon-to-be-graduates. Up above, the great trees sway, their music inaudible above the crowd sound.

I am sitting behind the faculty and fellows on-stage, eyes closed in meditation. The breath goes in and out, and with it go all fear, anxiety, pride and hesitation. The provost calls my name and I rise, black robes flowing, toward the broad podium and an ocean of faces. With palms laid face-up on the wood I speak:

"This is dedicated to the One I love....."

An eruption of smiles and laughter as I pause before completing the invocation:


I look into the crowd before me and begin a slow scan of the faces. Trying, to the limit of what is possible, to make eye contact with each and every person. I give myself to them. As I do, they slowly catch on to the meaning of my words. Now the smiles are ten-fold wider, the laughter ten-fold louder. I make a complete circle as I turn to include the faculty and administrators sitting behind me, until once again I am facing the ocean, silent and fearless. The audience quiets until I hear the wind blowing through the oak trees like a great, invisible breath. And I begin:

I come before you in this moment, not as a bearer of words, but of a Word.

The human genome is a single, glorious Word three billion letters in length. And though spelled from an alphabet of only 4 characters, this one Word is more profound than all the words uttered by all our poets. For the sound of its articulation is the human being, and, by extension: all the poetry, the cave paintings, and the atom bombs that have sprung from our hands, mouths and minds.

Human creativity is Nature’s creativity, expressing through us.

Now science races to transcribe the text of our genome. When UC Santa Cruz became the first institution to share this text freely on the Internet for all to see, our species took one more step of a great Initiation. For with the deciphering of DNA’s code, the flesh will be made Word. We will step back to contemplate the very bodies in which we are clothed.

Through the vehicle of human cognition, Nature is striving to understand itself. And the arrival of this understanding will serve as The Great Reminder: that we and every species of plant, animal and microbe are branches on a Tree of Life that has been growing on this planet for three and a half billion years. Each branch is a unique expression of Nature’s endless creativity; humanity is but the most recent branchlet, straining up toward the Sun.

You share half your genetic code with common yeast. You are 90% genetically identical to the field mouse, and only 1% separates you from the chimpanzee.

I pause as the graduates break out in wild monkey hoots and screeches (a Porter College tradition frowned upon by the administration).
And the difference between you and everyone else in this audience? A mere tenth of a percent.

What makes humankind unique among all the branches in the Tree of Life? It is our Creative Intellect, reflecting in microcosm Nature’s own creative power to fashion novel forms out of our environment. Thus our own creations, artistic and technological, are themselves yet further branchings in Nature’s Tree.

It is no wonder that the most advanced developments of the Information Age are also the most life-like: the World Wide Web, extending our Collective Memory in a global embrace, bears an ever-increasing resemblance to the brain’s own network organization. Digital information storage, massively parallel computation, even the still-speculative nanotechnology--all these are basic functions of DNA’s double helix. To call these concepts "new" is like the chicken claiming to have invented the egg.

On the Tree of Life, humanity’s Creative Mind is the one and only fruit, nurturing within it the seed -- invention! -- the vessel by which DNA’s message will be carried to the stars, to plant new gardens before ours is consumed in the fire of our dying Sun.

H.G. Wells wrote, “History is a race between education and disaster.”

Caught up in the dizzying spell that is modern culture, humanity has forgotten its connection to the Tree of Life.

We have forgotten our kinship with every plant and animal.

Forgotten how to live in equilibrium with our environment.

Forgotten the Word, that binds all people as one human family.

Forgotten the true source of our creativity: Nature.

And we have forgotten the stars, though they shine on us every night.

Yet this state of affairs is not tragedy! It is opportunity for each one of us to apply the creative mind. Whether towards high-technology, ecological sustainability or simply extending the smile of friendship to strangers you pass in the street--we are all acting out The Great Reminder.

Remember: the stars.

Remember: imagination--the inside of our heads--is the greatest frontier.

Remember: You are the Tree of Life, branches reaching for the Sun, ever-seeking new possibilities for being.

And what is, perhaps, closest to being, is beginning.

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