Any joy I ever felt for chemistry disappeared in the lecture halls and laboratories of the Keir Building, Queens University, Belfast between the years of 1997-1998. It got lost in thermodynamic equations I didn’t understand, extremely boring university lecturers and disappointing chemical yields from fume cupboards.
And any joy I have for cleaning a burnt oven ring or burnt saucepan evaporates with each rub of the sponge and scrub of the pan. I do not enjoy cleaning oven rings.
So I felt a surprising amount of joy reading the following paragraph from John Stewart Collis because the black residue on the burnt oven ring or scraped from early morning toast is a small reminder and sign of the main building block of life, carbon.
It’s part of what makes you you and me me, of what makes life on planet earth life.
The trick will be to remember it next time I’m pissed off cleaning the oven..
‘It seems that carbon is the main staff of life. If we take anything to bits we find that it possesses carbon. The way to way take an organic thing to bits is to apply heat to it so that its more volatile particulars fly off. We all know what happens when we do this to bread or sugar or almost anything – we are left with the residue of carbon. So with plants, animals, or ourselves – we can all be reduced to carbon. It is odd that the stuff itself looks so inglorious, for this black substance which smudges the coal-heaver and the chimney sweep is the insignia of all that is most colourful on earth, responsible for the parade and panoply of the living world no less than for the glittering of the diamond’
John Stewart Collins, The Vision of Glory