11 February 2021

Searching for the missing
links as I move from
Zoos to Zoom with Darwin

Trying to find the missing link with Charles Darwin at Zoom meetings

Patrick Comerford

I am all Zoomed out this week. It seems there have been at least three Zoom meetings each day for the last three days, including school boards, school committees, chapter meetings and clergy meetings, and meetings of local community projects, and now I am about to go into a Zoom meeting of the Diocesan Council.

I cannot be alone in tiring at looking at my own image on the screen before me. I have not had a haircut in months, and now I fear my hair has grown to what my father would have described as ‘cavalry length.’ It has not been this long this the 1970s, before I started going bald.

Someone else I know thinks it has reached the length of a Greek priest and needs to be tied back behind my neck. Another person has commented that under my broad-brimmed black hat, it looks like Haredi hair from Mea Shearim in Jerusalem.

None of us knows what we look like to other people taking part in a Zoom meeting or watching a livestream. Unlike Rod Ponton, the Texas lawyer who has gone viral for struggling to find how to switch off his Zoom filters during a court hearing, I am sure I am not going to be mistaken as a cat online.

But sometimes, looking at my own image on Zoom meetings this week, I was beginning to wonder whether other participants thought I was using a filter so that I looked less like my self and more like Charles Darwin in a tired old £10 note or in his portrait by Walter William Ouless in the College Hall in Christ’s College, Cambridge.

I wonder is this the same shock people joked about when Darwin first met an ape face-to-face in London Zoo on 28 March 1838. He was then only 29, and was far from being the Victorian celebrity he later became, so he was hardly balding and bearded by that age.

Darwin became a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London in 1839, and later as a member the council he used his time at London Zoo to study the behaviour of animals and develop his theories.

Did he ever know that we would evolve from Zoos to Zoom?

I have often searched for the link that family lore says connects the Comberford family with Charles Darwin. His grandfather, Ersasmus Darwin, lived in Lichfield, and there were a number of Darwin family connections with the families that lived at Comberford Hall.

Every time I see that similarity with Darwin in my reflections on Zoom, I am amused about the prospect of finding the missing link.

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