More on scale. As have we all, I’ve been a bit distracted this week by world events. A good friend was in Paris, on the street where a major terrorist attack occurred. She was lucky enough to survive, although I’d be reluctant to say unchanged. Another person I didn’t know, but know his good friend, the merchandise man for the band, was not so lucky.
These are startling events. They have a bad habit of pushing against the will and ideal. But it’s definitely best to push past them, at least for a time each day. Sometimes if one pretends to feel safe, at some point during the day, you may find that for at least a moment, you’ve allowed yourself to actually feel safe. May not last but a fleeting second, but it’s a small island in a sea of chaos. From that one island, maybe you can find another and another.
And so I’ll use this post today to try to find an island. I hope you may also find it useful as a foothold to expand a small buffer zone against the fear that can so easily creep into every second of the day.
Stealing a joke from somewhere – Why did the Buddhist coroner get fired? He kept listing cause of death as “Birth”. At the end of life, certainly I imagine a certain angst, but overall my goal is to look forward with anticipation to my next adventure.
But there’s a bit deeper problem with Life and Death. And that is, what is what? What is alive and what is not alive? I’ll use the human as one example. Without looking it up, I remember there are something like ten billion cells that make up each individual. That would be 10,000,000,000. A lot. Problematically for each of us, each of those cells is an independently existing life form. “I” am not me, at least physically. I am a cooperative of ten billion or so.
I have no idea how many cells associated with me are born and how many die each day. But it’s a considerable number. Some of us spend a good deal of money to scrub off dead cells and keep living cells very elastic. Most of us reading this have seen movies about the two cells merging into one and then starting to split over and over and over. And slowly, slowly, slowly, the group starts to form a shape. For us, it’s a shape like us, a mix of father and mother, unique like a snowflake, but always human shaped and human operationally.
But… at the end of the line, there is no me. There is no you. There is just a cooperative of cells. As the title says, how far would one have to dissect a bird to see the flock? How far down, how many cells do we need to isolate to recognize the human?
The answer of course, is that there is no way to see the human from that type of physical analysis. Just as you cannot see the flock from one bird, you cannot see the human from one cell.
I consider it somewhat of a miracle each day when “I” wake up. After all, each cell in my body is an independently living being, capable of surviving successfully through it’s entire lifecycle without ever joining forces with other cells. The same cell types that make up “me” also live as independent entities. Bacteria for example. There’s lots of single cell bacteria out there in the world that are not joined up to be a human. So each morning, when I find I’m still me instead of a blob of ten billion cells, I think of that as a miracle.
However, that’s not really what this blog is about. Rather, this blog is about the electrons and protons that make up each cell. And if they are too big, this blog is about the quarks and leptons that make up the electrons and protons. And what this article is really, really about is what lies below even those levels, where things get really dicey, at the wave/particle duality zone, where physicality gets a bit uncertain.
Here’s nice TED talk about this idea. http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxBoulder-Thad-Roberts-Visual
So here’s a short term conclusion to this post. We, you and me, we don’t exist as a physical entity. We are a cooperative of universal forces. I am a flock of cells and atoms and probability waves and who knows what else. And yet, here I sit, tapping away on this keyboard. I’ll just leave this one here. Clearly there’s more to say, if maybe not everything to say. But when “my” time does arrive, I’m looking forward to the dispersal of my current cooperative and to see what the next one offers.