All Aboard the Train of Thought

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

When I was a little girl, I remember my mother exclaiming in frustration that something (probably me) had caused her to lose her train of thought.

I took her literally, as children do, and pictured an actual choo-choo train carrying her thoughts away from her.

I love it when I read something that causes me to think about one topic, which leads to thoughts on a related topic, which leads to another, and another, and so forth. The final subject may have very little to do with the initial one. A whisper-down-the-line game for my brain, if you will.

I still picture these linear thoughts as a train. The first thought, the engine, is linked to the second, the boxcar, but not to the final one, the caboose. The more boxcars there are, the greater the distance between the locomotive and the caboose.

Let me give you an example.

Image by edmondlafoto from Pixabay

The Locomotive

I have an obsession with octopuses. Yes, the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi. An article about any octopus-related topic will attract my attention.

A few months ago, I read that octopuses adapt to their environment by editing their RNA.

That’s weird,” I thought. Most animals adapt to their environment through mutations to their DNA.

DNA is kind of like the recipe for producing proteins that keep an organism alive. RNA is like the chef. DNA gives the RNA instructions, and RNA carries them out.

Occasionally RNA, the chef, goes rogue. It improvises and doesn’t precisely follow the recipe. This is called RNA editing. Just like when a chef improvises in the kitchen, sometimes you get a delicious new stew. Many times, you wind up with a smoking-hot mess.

For this reason, most animals don’t use an RNA editing strategy. It is typically chaotic, unorganized, and often causes more problems than it’s worth. Modern-day animals follow the recipe for the most part.

Octopuses, apparently, didn’t get the memo.

Meditations in Motion

The Boxcar

Coronaviruses are RNA viruses. That means they consist of a single strand of RNA wrapped up burrito-style in proteins.

These tiny burritos invade our cells and hijack some cell components to make copies of themselves. These copies infect other cells, and the virus spreads.

Using the recipe/chef analogy from above, when RNA makes copies of itself, it’s like copying a recipe over and over. By hand.

The problem is, RNA is not a good speller. It sometimes writes “flour” as “flower“, “butter” as “butterfly“, and “milk” as “sdfghj“. (DNA does the same thing, except it uses the molecular version of Grammarly  and spell-check.)

When the recipe is incorrect, the virus mutates. That is why we are now hearing about different strains of the virus infecting our populations. RNA-driven mutations have caused the virus to use flowers in the stew instead of flour, so to speak.

Image by Mahmoud Ahmed from Pixabay

The Caboose

This means that the entire impressive panoply of living organisms depends either on the slight errors that occur when the recipe is copied or wild improvisations made by the chef.

If each one of these actions happened perfectly every time, you wouldn’t be here. Neither would I. Neither would elephants, or pine trees, or earthworms, or violets. Or octopuses.

But maybe there is another way to look at the whole process.

Maybe the recipe is perfect every time. Maybe the Chef doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe it’s us who can’t read the recipe or understand the Chef’s ultimate plan.

Maybe, just maybe, everything is humming along exactly the way it is supposed to, warts, mildew, blemishes, and all.

Maybe it is not our role to judge what is perfect, but to sit back, relax, and enjoy the whole shebang.

Maybe everything is beautiful just the way it is.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.โ€- Ecclesiastes 3:11

You can find the places I link up here.

141 comments

  1. Very interesting facts and insights. I never knew that about octopuses (so thought that was octopi). They are creatures that never fail to remind me of God’s magnificent creativity.

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    • That’s exactly my thought on the subject, Ashley. God has so much more creativity than I do. I could never in a million years dream up an octopus!

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  2. If I’m remembering correctly, this is a deviation form previously stated beliefs (and of course maybe I’m wrong because my memory is definitely a weaknesses). As you already know (from my last blog post) I believe in a sloppy chef using an incomplete recipe. I will, however, take on differing viewpoints from time to time and give them a spin to see if my opinions have changed (at least on religious topics). If this is a new approach to the topic, I’d love to know why you’ve changed.

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    • Mmmm…I don’t THINK this is a change in my viewpoint. I have always believed in evolution driven by mutations to DNA (or RNA). I pretty much go along with conventional science. Maybe you are talking about my beliefs on the origin of life? That is a topic evolution does not address.

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      • I was reacting to this sentence “Maybe the recipe is perfect every time. Maybe the Chef doesnโ€™t make mistakes. Maybe itโ€™s us who canโ€™t read the recipe or understand the Chefโ€™s ultimate plan.” To me it seemed to negate the theory of evolution and slide into predestiny. I read it again and I can see a different interpretation of it now.

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      • Yes, I can see how you might think I was talking about predestination. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I DON’T believe everything is predestined.

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  3. Interesting. I like the way you explained the mutations. I love Ecclesiastes, but must confess that I have a hard time seeing all of this pain and suffering as being God’s plan. I know good CAN come out of it all, but thinking it was intended from the beginning is a stretch for me. Guess that makes me human. Huh?

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  4. Okay. I’d have fared much better had YOU been my science teacher. You have the best combination of knowledge and a knack for storytelling. I wonder who thought they might fill your shoes upon retirement? I had one bio teacher in HS who was also a good storyteller, and my husband and I STILL retell those to our kids now.
    Question: Have you watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix? If not, it is a must! (And I don’t say that about movies very often. But this one, for sure.)

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    • Thank you, Carolyn. My students used to try their best to get me off track and tell stories (sometimes I allowed them to succeed). I did watch My Octopus Teacher and LOVED it. I am going to write about it in an upcoming post.

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      • THAT sounds familiar. My daughter tells me they try that move with their history teacher–with great success, and frequently! He IS such a good storyteller…and they really carry that with them in their hearts.

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  5. Our judgement of what is perfect, is not God’s perspective, but our fallen world perspective, lol.How quickly do we forget that. You used some big words here, Laurie! (smile). Have to admit, the octopus is not my favorite sea creature, to look or to eat. Love the salmon much more in both aspects:)

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  6. Laurie, you may have made me laugh OUT LOUD through parts of this scientific (partially) post. I love how you illustrated the engine to caboose, and I love what the caboose became. I didn’t really understand much about RNA, but I understand it much better now. Thank you, Ms. Science Teacher. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  7. Oh my gosh… a family memory, a science lesson & a good look & reminder that God is in control here & things are as they should be… what a great post!

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  8. Have you ever read “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning? He includes a long wonderful description of the interconnectedness of creation and how it is perfect and describes how easily things could be off. My only frustration was that he did not document the science, which would have been helpful. I am a-scientific, but I took Marine Biology and Zoology in college, in addition to General and Anatomy and Physiology (for dummies). Cellular biology fascinated me but chem was never strong and I think I would have needed chem for that. At any rate, thank you for bringing science into the conversation of faith! Blessings, Michele

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  9. I just love the way you write, Laurie. Such topics could easily make me lose my train of thought, but you had my attention the whole way through. Iโ€™m inclined to agree … the Chef doesnโ€™t make mistakes, and He makes everything beautiful in its time. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thank you, Lois. I love the way you write too! You can tell you have had training and a writing background. The Chef does make everything beautiful in its own time! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. Our train of thought does that all the time. My husband or I will say something as a result of many one-thing-leads-to-another routes of thought, and the other one will go, “Huh?” because what was said was seemingly out of nowhere.

    I had thought it was octopi, too. And, I agree with what someone else said–you must have been a great science teacher.

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    • Ha! My husband and I do the same thing. I’m glad to hear we are not the only ones. Thank you, Barbara. I loved teaching. It was a wonderful vocation for me for 31 years.

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  11. An interesting concept Laurie and I love the idea that everything is beautiful in its own way. I also hold to the belief that after the Fall creation has slowly declined, but will one day be restored to its full glory – that’s what I’m really looking forward to seeing – but I still enjoy what we have now (in all its imperfection).

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  12. Laurie, this is an amazing train of thought. I loved how you linked random thought and drew them together in a post that explained the coronavirus better than any other I’ve heard. I read this on Natalie’s InLinkz. Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. I also love when one thought leads to another, until you have a train. Great word picture. What a great description of RNA and DNA and the conclusion, to enjoy it all without judging. We often get our jobs confused, thinking we are the judge and not the enjoyer.

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    • Thank you, Theresa. I am glad you liked the description. We do need to be able to enjoy without judging. What a wonderful way to put the sentiment into words.

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  14. I love octopuses too. I put them in the novel I’m working on, for many of the reasons you stated. Nature is amazing. I’m reading Hollow Kingdom. You might like it too, if you love animals and nature. It’s so funny.

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  15. I like the train of thought theme with the image and the structure of the writing. There has been so much suffering with COVID and hard to accept it is all in a plan. I hope we come out of this pandemic soon.

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    • Thank you, Deborah. I do not believe that COVID was sent to us as part of God’s plan. I am sorry you and other readers thought that was what I was saying. I should have been more clear when I was writing. I do not believe God “tests” us or uses suffering to strengthen us. I think the Coronavirus was something that just happened. I hope we come out of this pandemic soon too!

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  16. Now I know if I read an interesting story about an octopus, I’ll be sure to pass it along to you Laurie. This story was interesting … I know why the students in your chemistry class got more out of the class than just learning about the basic elements and their properties. You were born to be a teacher.

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    • Oh, yes! Please pass along all octopus stories. When we were in Spain, we saw so many pulporias. These are restaurants that specialize in octopus. It made me so sad to think of hunting for these very smart animals. I wouldn’t go in. Thank you for the comment about being a teacher. I think I chose the right profession. I had a wonderful 31 years!

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      • I did remember what I saw about octopus intelligence Laurie. I’ll send it in a separate comment as it may go to SPAM as it’s a link.
        A client of ours follows this site and sends out many e-mails of videos he finds interesting. Your grandsons may like the video as it is about intelligent animals. The octopus story about it opening a jar of peanut butter to get at the fish in the jar is at 3:40 in the video. I can tell you enjoyed teaching from your stories in various blog posts.

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      • I am going to show the video to my grandsons the next time I see them. I think they would love it. Thanks for sending it along. I did enjoy teaching. Now I am enjoying retirement! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • You’re welcome and I think the grandsons would enjoy it as you and Bill teach them about nature when you go to the park to feed the ducks and make the pine cone bird feeders. They enjoy nature and think it is fun. I felt badly to hear about Jack Hanna’s retirement from public life due to dementia. I used to like when he was on the late night shows and would bring various animals. He made nature fun to learn.

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      • I showed it to them yesterday. They were at our house for dinner. They did love it. We went for a hike at a place near our house called Governor Dick. We hiked about a mile uphill to a tower, then climbed up a 10 story tower for the view. It was cool! I brought snacks. It is so sad about Jack Hanna. He did a lot for the environmental movement.

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      • I thought they’d love it – you and Bill are instilling a love of nature in them, so they would get enjoyment out of that video. The hike sounds nice as does the view. Yes, Jack Hanna gave us a better appreciation for nature, that’s for sure.

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      • I remember a fellow blogger who lives in Georgia, did a post of her and her family climbing the tall hill where there was a waterfall and posting pictures. They had such a great time and I forwarded the link to Anne Mehrling as she and her family enjoy the North Carolina waterfalls so much.

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      • Yes, that would be nice. I don’t think I would do the same race that was canceled, though. It was very expensive and they were not very accommodating after the cancellation. I bet there would be some awesome trail races near Anne, though! ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Ah, so there will still be a chance for the meeting of the minds and sharing a cup of coffee. I have signed up for three virtual races this Spring and likely will sign up for the Mutt Strut for shelter pets if it is virtual. If it is not virtual, I don’t think I’ll do it even though I’ll be fully vaccinated by then. i go for the second shot this Tuesday.

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      • Thanks Laurie and yes, I think they will all be fun, even though they are all virtual. All but one (Tulip Time Festival) are charities, so that’s a plus. Well, as you know I got my 2nd vaccine today – so far, so good, but going to try and get to bed earlier tonight as I had a lot of fatigue the second day for the 1st vaccine. I will say my arm is already sore, so I’m glad this snow we’re getting tonight will only appear on grass and not sidewalks. It will be 60 degrees on Thursday so it all will melt. They have issued freeze warnings for plants and farmers are worried, especially for cherry and apple crops.

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      • I like running races that support charities too. I am sending good thoughts your way. I hope you are still feeling well when you read this. Ugh!!! So sorry to read about the snow.

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      • We had 4.2 inches of snow! It has mostly melted but it is going to 23 tonight, so I suspect there might be some icy patches so I am going to hold off another day to walk due to that and this COVID shot side effects.

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      • Thanks Laurie – the side effects were like a 24-hour flu bug and I was better the next day, after living on Goldfish crackers and water for a day. The arm pain is still there and the injection site is still red now, but I just deal with that – the other wasn’t pleasant. I hope you two will be unscathed when you go for your part 2 Pfizer shot. P.S. – like the side effects, the snow was gone by the next morning. My kind of snow!

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      • Enjoy – something to look forward to. Take the grandsons to the Park in their tee-shirts again. We have the 84-degree day Tuesday, then reality steps in with a couple of stormy days to boot.

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      • Yes! The younger one loves to go to the park. We may be babysitting more often now that our son is back to work. The restaurant he manages is very close to our house.

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      • Yes, very good news. We really like his restaurant. It’s only been open for about a year. It’s a very popular place. I hope to be visiting the park a lot this summer. And the pool!

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      • Oh a pool too – how nice! My boss and his wife swim in a community pool in their neighborhood and it was closed most of the Summer … they always went early before the crowd as they swim laps. I guess they will be able to go again this year. Their school pool they swim in is not open yet … he is bummed about that as they did a mile every morning at 6:00 a.m.

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      • We belong to the community pool too. I swam there last summer and we took the grandkids. They have slides and other fun stuff for the kids. Our pool has a separate pool for laps, which is great.

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      • Oh, you’re much fancier with the separate pool for laps. He told me it’s an Olympic-sized pool, but they go early to do laps before the crowd arrives. That’s great for the kids. Teach them to swim – I never learned, even in gym class.

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      • I made sure to take my kids and then grandkids for swimming lessons as soon as I could. I didn’t want to worry about them near water. Bill never really learned to swim. As he says, he can just ” not drown”.

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      • I’m not sure I could even do as well as Bill and wish I had learned – we had gym class where we went into the junior high and high school pools, so I guess they never tried to teach us. You were smart to get swimming lessons for your kids and grandkids.

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      • Yes, it is amazing that they could film the experience. I watched a movie on Netflix about a man who followed an octopus for almost a year. He didn’t scuba dive, he dove without a tank, so he had to surface for air now and then. It was filmed off the coast of South Africa. I think it was called My Octopus Teacher. He got some amazing footage too.

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      • My parents always watched “National Geographic” and “Jacques Cousteau” specials so I’d watch with them … we thought those simple TV shows were the greatest … what they have now are amazing.

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      • Same here Laurie and, if not for those magazines, my father would be spending the evening at the library while I gathered research and spent countless dimes xeroxing the pages to take home.

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  17. A great title, Laurie. It lures me in to see where this train is heading.

    Fascinating about octopuses. I can now see where you are going with this. Octopus – DNA – actually RNA strategy – Coronaviruses – and yes, โ€œslight errorsโ€.

    Laurie, this is one of the best descriptions of how this virus replicates and mutates.

    I know I will mull your ending and give it more thought. I am also on these train tracks. A great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow – Laurie. This is a wonderful article. I’m a bit of a science nerd but had never followed this line – opps, train of thought. I knew some of the distinctions between DNA & RNA, but you took me to the next level. Thanks for the great read.

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