In Common

‘Luca! The Last. Universal. Common. Ancestor.’ The audience, (a jumbled mix of over-keen undergrads, an assortment of teachers forced into chaperoning the event, and the poor sod from the University Paper who professed to not having the remotest interest in the Arts and Humanities wing of study), were by now hooked on every word. This Professor Guest, or whatever his name was, seemed to reach out and grab these people by their collars with his words. As if this otherwise unobtrusive character was scanning his viewership and collectively embedding LISTEN TO ME – WHAT I’M SAYING’S IMPORTANT into their frontal lobes. And so that’s what they did. ‘Now, I want you all to look at the person next to you,’ the man on stage announced. Though the spectators were unwilling, there was something about the simple command that bypassed their free will and, all at once, a ripple went out through the crowd as they each regarded the individual next to them. Being the 21st century, this crowd had been specially selected to be as varied as possible. A multitude of eyes, some deep and piercing others wide and restful, surveyed a myriad of noses, ears, styles and colours which each in turn repaid their gazes. As they studied the creatures next to them, a reaction was registered – perhaps not consciously but deep down everyone felt something at that moment. Whether it was sympathy, boredom or disgust was down to the onlooker, but the simple sight of seeing a stranger’s face affected them all differently. ‘How are you alike? How are you distinct? These answers are separate for each of you, of course, for you to independently resolve within your own heads. Except, most likely, LUCA. Every single one of you shares this lifeform. We are all descended from it. 3.5 Billion years ago a miniscule, single-celled organism came into being in some remote pond in France. A combination of circumstance and chemistry created a cell membrane, various proteins and, most importantly, a DNA loop. You have LUCA to thank for every micro-organic component within you. No matter who you are, what you believe or how you think, you are all living, breathing people, with LUCA at the bottom of each of your family trees.’ As Professor Guest looked out at his audience, he noticed something strange. For a brief second, uncharacteristic as it may seem, the attitudes of all those present had subtly shifted. The stress of that essay due next week or the teacher’s strike on Friday or even the scary editor who made Terrence Fletcher seem like a cuddly bear had been alleviated for a moment. The fear quickly snapped back, obviously, but Guest silently wondered whether the message of overarching unity he was teaching had a bigger significance than just being a fun fact. Of course, you know it does.

by Dylan, Age 16


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