Leaving Your Comfort Zone

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” Charlie Munger

I can think of few people I would rather emulate than Charlie Munger. So in an effort to walk the walk, I’m challenging myself to read things that are outside my comfort zone. I thought The Origin of Species, the seminal work on evolution by Charles Darwin, fit the bill. There is an excerpt I want to share and I hope you will find it as amazing as I, did keeping in mind that this book was published in 1859, before the Civil War and before the discovery of the light bulb and antibiotics (emphasis mine).

“It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye with a telescope. We know that this instrument has been perfected by the long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects; and we naturally infer that the eye has been formed by a somewhat analogous process. But may not this inference be presumptuous? Have we any right to assume the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of men? If we must compare the eye to an optical instrument, we ought in imagination take a thick layer of transparent tissue, with spaces filled with fluid, and with a nerve sensitive to light beneath, and then suppose every part of this layer to be continually changing slowly in density so as to separate into layers of different densities and thicknesses, placed at different distances from each other, and with the surfaces of each layer slowly changing in form. Further, we must suppose that there is a power, represented by natural selection or the survival of the fittest, always intently watching each slight alteration in the transparent layers; and carefully preserving each which, under varied circumstances, in any way or any degree, tends to produce a distincter image. We must suppose each new state of the instrument to be multiplied by the million ; each to be preserved until a better one is produced, and then the old ones to all be destroyed. In living bodies, variation will cause the slightest alterations, generations will multiply them almost infinitely, and natural selection will pick out with unerring skill each improvement. Let this process go on for millions of years; and during each year on millions of individuals of many kinds; and may we not believe that a living optical instrument might thus be formed as superior to one of glass, as the works of the Creator are to those of man?”

If you want to venture outside your comfort zone but don’t know where to get started, my friend Patrick O’Shaughnessy has an excellent book club.