Thursday, October 05, 2006

Big Things are Made up of Lots of Little Things

Part 2 - E Unum Pluribus
The human body is made up of trillions (millions of millions) of cells. Each cell has the entire blueprint of the body imprinted in it's DNA. Each cell is individual, and maintains itself for the most part, feeding itself from the bloodstream, and carrying on whatever function it is adapted to as a result of its location in the body. Each cell starts out as a "Stem Cell," each of which is completely identical until it is located and assigned its "job" in the body, at which time it differentiates, maintaining the exact same DNA, but adopting subtle differences in its functionality according to its kind.
A human being begins life as a single Zygote, or perhaps more accurately as 2 cells, one sperm and one ovum, which unite to become a single cell. That cells divides into 2 identical cells, each of these divides into 2 identical cells, and so on, in a rather long (9 months) process which ultimately results in the phenomenon that we humans tend to call "a human being." Why do I say that we "tend to call" this a human being? Well, that is the crux of this post.
At a certain point in our human development, we begin to have organized thoughts, and we develop a sense of identity. We begin to learn to "work our peripherals," to put it into computer lingo, to learn which "buttons to push" in our brains in order to exercise our wills. We begin to formulate thought and ideas, and to differentiate between one thought/idea and another, to associate these ideas with the input that we receive through our senses.
Part of this process is that of associating ideas/thoughts with certain groups of input, to associate those input as belonging to a collective idea/thought, and to differentiate between that which is one collection, and that which is not that collection. Like computers, our mind is binary in nature. Like computers, we measure by differentiating between this and not this, 1 and 0, true and false. And like computers, we combine these binary identifications into complex constructs that enable us to compare, or to measure those ideas and thoughts.
Why do I say "measure?" Well, for example, how long is an inch? It is impossible to say, unless one compares it with something else. It is not possible to state the measure of anything without comparison, without differentiating between this and not this. Interestingly, and appropriately enough, the first thing that we tend to use for comparison is our own body. Of course, that is why the English language and system of measurement was originally based on a foot, which was originally the rather inexact measure of the human foot. In other cultures, you can find similar origins of measure. What do we consider to be "big?" Generally, anything larger than we are. And we generally consider "small" to be anything smaller than our body. But it is not my intention to go into detail about measurement in this post. I am simply introducing the idea that what we perceive and what is are completely different things, based upon the way we think.
Now, let's talk about the human race as a whole. Like the human body, it began as a single person, or rather a pair of people. You may scoff at this point, and make the mistake that I'm talking about the Biblical Adam and Eve, and though you would not be far from wrong, you would still be mistaken. What I'm talking about is (relatively) simple mathematics. Every human being came from a pair of human beings, which parented one or more children. Each generation contains more human beings than the generation before. And we know from our study of biology that it is impossible for any species of life to reproduce with a different species. Our study of history and archaeology indicates that the human race has spread out across the globe progressively, from some small area of the earth, somewhere in the Middle East, probably somewhere in the area of the world currently defined by general agreement as the nation of Iraq. And applying mathematical principles, it logically follows that at some point, there were only 2 (one male, and one female) of this species that we call "human" living somewhere in the world. To assume otherwise would indicate an unwillingness to believe that which is logically, mathematically, and scientifically demonstrable, a resistance to the idea, indicating a certain willful denial of what is logically true. How the first 2 members of the species were generated is certainly not known, and it is not my intention to delve into guesses and controversies about that in this post. It is merely my contention that a new species emerged sometime in the past, the human species, and that the human species originated with at most a pair or humans, or perhaps a pair of near-humans that were able to mate and produce human offspring.
Getting back to that point, these original members of the human species, like the cells in the body, began to reproduce themselves, and to organize themselves into a variety of groups which were differentiated according to their placement in the environment, and their relative placement to one another. Like the cells in the body, the human species became a complex network of interconnected humans, evolving means of supporting one another, communicating, and organizing themselves into identifiably separate collections. Over time, we began to build various consturcts like roads, and communication networks of ever-increasing sophistication and complexity, which, like the vascular and nervous systems of the body, provided our ability to remain connected, to cooperate for our mutual survival. Families evolved into tribes. Tribes evolved into states. States evolved into nations. And nations evolved into alliances of nations.
In fact, the entire world of humanity is interconnected, supporting and feeding one another, often, like the opposing muscular stucture of the human body, struggling and striving in different directions, producing strength. Like the human mind, our governing bodies are composed of various individuals that propose a variety of conflicting ideas and debate them in order to come to collective decisions that are carried out by collections of human beings. Within the individual human mind, we often debate opposing ideas in our thoughts, in order to come to a decision as to what we as individuals should do.
Like the individual cells in the body, each of us is basically self-sustaining, feeding ourselves from our immediate environment. The similarities between the macro-human (human race) to the micro-human (collection of cells) are astonishing. The human body even has the equivalent of war inside it, cells that defend against invaders from outside, and traitrous cancer cells inside. The human body is, in fact, in a constant state of struggle, a life-and-death struggle, which never ends until at last it is lost (on an individual level) by that phenomenon we call "death."
So, the question I propose here is, how many are we? It is my contention that although we, like the cells of our bodies, are many, we are also one. We are man, humanity. The thought construct that we call our individual identity is useful in some respects, but useless in others. And to thrive, it is necessary to recognize in what ways that idea of separateness is useful, and in what ways the idea of unity is useful.
For example, any cell in the human body that does not feed itself dies. On the other hand, any cell in the human body that feeds itself only is cancerous, and ultimately is attacked by the defense system of the body in a life-and-death struggle which determines the ultimate survival of the entire body. Of course, if the cancerous cells win the battle, all of the cells die, both healthy and cancerous. But it is the intention of the body to survive as a whole. It is the prime directive of our DNA.
It is my hope that these ideas will contribute to the survival of humanity, by sparking thought that tends to be balanced and healthy. Let us recognize, and not forget that we all share the same humanity, the same DNA, and the same essential goals, to thrive, to live, and that if the human race is divided beyond a certain point, if the network or mutual cooperation towards survival breaks down, it is not individuals alone that will perish, but the "body of man" that will be lost.
I am the egg man. They are the egg men. I am the walrus.

No comments: