Unintended consequences

The air in a man’s lungs contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms, so that sooner or later every one of us breathes an atom that has been breathed before by anyone you can think of who has ever lived – Michelangelo or George Washington or Moses.

– Jacob Bronowski


I mostly dislike this quote. And while I appreciate that it is likely true and that this should, I suppose, fill me with a sense of wonder and connected-ness to all of humanity, it also means I’m breathing in the same atoms that have traveled the pulmonary veins and arteries of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, to name just a few of the previous century’s more charming individuals. This obviously fills me with less awe and instills in me instead the deep desire to take ammonia hydroxide and a wire brush to the surface area of my alveoli. Which was likely not the intention of the speaker.

Also, Michelangelo, George Washington and Moses are your go-to paragons of the human race? I mean I realize this is quite a subjective thing and that everyone of us has their own weightings they use to ascribe value…  but Moses? The man, wondered round a desert for 40 years. A relatively small desert at that. Color me generally unimpressed.

Finally shouldn’t it be ‘in a persons’ lungs (as opposed to a mans). I like quotes to include the lesser and more maligned gender too. I mean if your point is inclusivity.  Although maybe girls use less oxygen. And therefore are less likely to have inhaled tainted atoms.

This kinda makes sense to me.


  1. Ha ha ha! Moses, if he was indeed a living, breathing human who walked the face of the earth, also arbitrarily came up with a whole shitload of rules, many of which may’ve been perfectly legit in his day, and passed them on as THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD and that, sadly, many of which continue to be believed today even though they’re ohh, approximately 6,000 years old and most of them no longer apply in our vastly changed world. But I reckon you already knew all that.

    1. Apparently, should you desire to recreate the journey of Moses and his epic flight from Egypt by walking across the sinai peninsula into modern day Israel it would take you about six days. Old testament god was having none of that expedience!

      Personally I would have apologized on day seven and figured out a way to make it right. Waiting forty years seems like a bit of hubris on the part of the Israelites. ‘Look, we’re sorry about the whole false idols thing, and then Moses smashing the tablets with the rules… can we just try and move past this….’

      Personally I feel god, having given us guidelines by which to live our lives, could have infused a modicum of permanency into these commandments, maybe inscribing them into a cliff-face out mountain side, preferably in Helvetica. New times Roman would have been a little weird considering their later involvement in that whole crucifixion debacle. In any event, I feel, as a deity, he could have saved us all a lot of trouble and bloodshed.

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