I don't watch a great deal of TV, but I've enjoyed the BBC's recent Planet Earth series, not least because it provides lots of 'food for metaphor'. Trying to find parallels between our own lives and those of other living creatures is an activity as old as... well, as old as the tree gum containing the perfectly preserved body of a pre-historic insect. But, as programmes like this prove, there's still so much left to learn about the world around us and, by extension, about ourselves.

I think my favourite thought-provoker came during the closing moments of last night's episode, which featured a shot of two blue whales. Not only are the creatures the largest living animals on earth, they are also the largest ever to have been alive; apparently they are more than twice the size of the largest known dinosaur. Yet despite their gargantuan size, we know very little about where they spend most of their time and we have no idea where they go to breed. I find the mystery of that nothing short of inspirational.

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