I am, by nature, a meanderer.
I never met a digression, a side street, a side interest that I didn't want to follow. Many times a day I do follow them, contrary to the counsel of productivity experts—productivity being one of my side interests— who emphasize focus, the direct path, the unwavering progress toward drawing a straight, bold red line through the top item on my prioritized list of action steps.
When I read the opening pages of Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson's cover story on the new science of astrobiology ("Are We Flying Solo," p. 38), I derived no small satisfaction from noting biologist Jocelyne DiRuggiero's meandering path as a scientist. She started with studying what happens in the microscopic confines of cells—cells that make up microorganisms that somehow flourish in the most inhospitable places, like deep-sea volcanic vents. Then came a day when it made sense to put some of her tiny subjects in the nose of a rocket and launch them beyond the atmosphere. Suddenly a side door opened, and DiRuggiero wandered from deep sea to deep space. Might there be exoplanets orbiting distant stars that could harbor life? And what form might that life assume?
I have before me a brochure for prospective Johns Hopkins students. The cover reads "Curiosity Welcome," and on an inside page there is this: "We can't resist following a hunch, chasing down a lead, going where that spark takes us."
Going where that spark takes us. However meandering the path.
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