It’s Elementary

SC-1_030edited copyBy Sharon Chayra

Las Vegas Informer

Elements consist of air, water, earth and fire. This month we’re reminded of the brutality fire can exact as it consumes miles and miles of Mount Charleston.

Mount Charleston isn’t just a Southern Nevada recreational area with welcoming lodges, it’s the sacred center of creation to the Southern Paiute Indians. It is also home to hundreds of residents and countless wildlife.

While we use fire on a daily basis, either directly or indirectly, we become complacent to its awesome power. Ironically as the monsoons moved in to allow a few drops of precipitation for a brief spell, it did little to squelch the fire.

I always marvel at our rainfall as it drenches a neighbor’s abode and leaves mine dry. It also pours buckets while simultaneously spilling cheery sunshine. And we suffer amnesia to what water does to a desert climate. In spite of road improvements, monsoon can bring unmerciful flooding resulting in shuttered business and lost houses.

About a decade ago, there was a particularly brutal rain that flooded homes sufficient to make them uninhabitable. It also ruined a brand new, very expensive fire engine.

Think of hurricanes. Air may be free but that doesn’t make it inert. During that same flooding, the sky tuned an eery green. Turns out a tornado touched down at Lake Mead.

Lest we forget our mother, the earth. She provides us the base in which we walk, cultivate, embrace and plot houses. Houses replete with beds that allow us to conceive future generations that will do the same. She, however, has a rather temperamental side.

People are often surprised to hear Nevada is the third most seismically active state. Years ago I remember my husband and I being awakened to what we thought was our rambunctious four year-old umping on the bed. That was until our son came crying into our room saying his bed was bouncing, we realized it was an earthquake.

Mother Nature can be a wilting parent. I can’t help but wonder if her ire is precipitated by government testing, environmental abuses or the natural evolutionary cycles that come with an inhabitable planet. I believe it’s all three.

Elements are the foundation of life and are mirrored in the chromosomes possessing the DNA that create the one and only us. Think of the staggering statistical improbability that you are you. It was perfect timing that that particular sperm, whether injected into the egg by an embryologist in a fertility lab or in the backseat of an SUV, formed you. Had it been a millisecond earlier or later, you wouldn’t be you…or would you?

There is speculation that before we are born, there is some sort of divine contract we make with a higher power. We are said to choose our parents and circumstances ostensibly for lessons in humanity called soul contracts. There’s the theory that we’re basically recycled until the time we demonstrate worthiness to ascend. Sometimes, as many believe, our life systems simply cease and we dissolve into the earth, nothing more and nothing less.

Whatever theory you ascribe, the literal elements of H, N, C are assembled into amino acids in a seemingly endless array of DNA that result in life. Arranged in particular orders, the recipe can make what some refer to as errors. This can result in profound aberrations that are incompatible with life as well as variations like an extra chromosome contributing to conditions like Down’s Syndrome or the more debilitating Trisomy 16.

Every one of us is born with a number of genetic errors. Some of these might actually be sought after like dimples. Others, however, may require extra diligence with diet and exercise to avoid the inevitability of pre-programed afflictions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

There is a relatively new branch of science that maps a portion of your genes. This optional and expensive testing can be used to determine whether you carry certain conditions that you could pass onto offspring or it can give you information to choose prophylactic treatment such as Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her breasts removed. She carries the gene for the inheritable form of breast cancer. It does not assure its manifestation, but she wanted the security cancer wouldn’t have much of a chance.

Not that long ago Dr. Francis Collins lead the mapping of the entire human genome. It was the culmination of decades of research.

I had the privilege to twice meet Dr. Collins. Though we had little more than a few minutes to talk, I did ask to interview him for a documentary. He declined, so I used books to research his bio.

Turns out Dr. Collins, like a great many scientists, was an atheist. ‘Was’ being the operative word. While elucidating the seemingly endless series of AGTC, he  began to marvel at the elegance of the design. Now an avowed Christian, he believes in intelligent design even if it has made him an object of ridicule amongst his colleagues.

Dr. Alexander Tsiaras, Associate Professor and Chief of Scientific Visualization Medicine for Yale University, writes algorithms and code for NASA that enables astronauts to render surgery in deep space. He’s been part of Nobel Prize winning research. You could say he’s smart. His genius as well as his research into the matrix of collagen in the human body made him ponder the statistical probability that we’re just a random toss of elements. Dr. Tsiaras’ matter of fact reply? “It’s hard not to attribute divinity to this.” (

However ubiquitous elements, they are far from elementary and far more than a simple sum of parts. They are the basis of life, the basis of us, and quite possibly the basis for the most Divine.

Mitakuye Oyasin.

Sharon Chayra

Sharon Chayra is an award-winning writer and president of a medical marketing firm based in Las Vegas. A traveler of life, Chayra integrates her science background with spirituality resulting in common sense observations to others on their life’s journey. Given her heritage of Apache and Scottish, she is a born storyteller and documents experiences about personal growth, culture, laughter and health into the written and visual word.

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