I am a teacher at an independent school where the students pick a topic they are passionate about to study in depth. I teach math and Latin but mostly I take students on field trips related to the topics they choose to study.
One of the most exciting times of the year is when we field trip teachers get the lists of the topics the students have chosen. It’s like Christmas! The lists have been coming in during the last few days. I’m working on many of the topics that relate to anthropology and one of the students I get to work with wants to know how we got here. He’s not asking about the origin of humans, but once there were humans how did they spread out over the planet.
I started my search for the perfect person to help him with his questions. I started reading about anthropologists who use genetic markers - small mutations that occurred at various points in human history and were then passed on - to build up a map of early human migration.
The weight of human history haunted the rest of my day - as I listened to news from Syria, as my husband told a family story at the dinner table, as I glanced at family photos from 1900 on the wall going up the stairs, as I read my children a bedtime story about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And I thought - when my ancestors were on the verge of extinction and each day was an infinitesimally epic quest to survive, all I do and know was far and away, in a future where each minute is filled with unimaginable, unbelievable wonders.