Some Sunday in December I find myself in a lecture of life, eagerly taking notes. If my notes during physics lectures have always been sparse, I am trying to make up for it in the lectures of life. Its funny, isn’t it. In a tiny, cosy little place in a tiny (lovely, perfect, extraordinary etc etc. ) country up north in an insignificant sphere of mass called Tellus in a privileged place in a solar system placing itself in yet another privileged place among a hundred billion stars in an average sized galaxy among a few hundreds of billions of galaxies in our visible universe –and as if it now mattered any more: I front of a chimney — sits a representative of the human being species and reflects on the whole universe even to the point of his own existence. No — it’s not funny. It’s is mind-blowing and completely incomprehensible. We are capable of reflection. Of loving, missing, hating and jealousy. We have what we call a conscience. We regret, we feel guilt and we understand moral obligations. Imagination like that found in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserable”. Brilliance like Schubert’s piano sonatas. Ability as that of the philosopher Kant or the mathematician Euler to comprehend through abstraction. That’s us. Human beings. So privileged among earths creatures. Our eminence is obvious, and yet some say we are but animals. Some say our majesty is crafted by chance and necessity. Others claim there must be a God. Only the blind remains seated on the fence separating the two. No off-fence on his part.
Somehow this — according to some good friends of his; strange — person in front of the chimney experiences a feeling of existence. And much more sophisticated so, he believes, than any animal’s such perception. Just think about it. You recognize yourself in the mirror. That it is “you” (whatever that is…). As obvious as it may sound to have that ability, most animals have yet to demonstrate their capacity to perform such recognition, and it is suggested that even human beings are not born with such an ability. Puzzling, I know. In this ability, I imagine, must be contained an enormous capacity of experiencing life; living as we like to call it. Through it, our perception of reality becomes so much more vivid than that of an animal. Just think of a baby. Do you think a child is capable of as great joys as an adult? By no means. Sure enough; it is able to fill its own measure of joy to the brim. This means that its comparative level of joy — its level of satisfaction — is possibly more or less complete. No worries, no guilt or bad conscience and a loving mothers nursing bosom to meet all his needs. She provides for her own son, even to the point of dying for him if needed. The only thing the baby does in return is to receive all this unselfish love from the mother’s side and to yearn for more of it. Did you know that a baby’s eyes naturally focus at about a 20-30 cm distance? That should be the distance to a mothers eyes when the baby rests at her breast. No worries, indeed. It occurs rather obvious to me that an adult doesn’t so easily reach this level of satisfaction — even if he is capable of experiencing much more sophisticated joys than that of the baby splashing his spoon in the porridge, or sucking his mothers breast for milk. We therefore clearly see that in our majesty, in our eminent ability to live, there easily develops a backside: With our self-consciousness, follows an increased awareness of right and wrong, and thus a conscience. Hence, inevitably, a bad conscience. I have the ability to say that I did something wrong, and to feel bad about that. I am a morally obligated being. Some claim there is a way back to the mothers womb. That there is a way back to the peace experienced in caring arms providing for all your needs. These people claim that God sent his own son to die in your place. Others say that’s absurd. ‘Are there still people around believing on those two thousand years old claims?’ they ask. Meanwhile the blind remains seated on the fence.
Finally there remains the mention of the other part of the finite infinity. As the being sits there and enjoys his jolly good cup of tea, he is hardly aware of the staggering 1000 000 000 000 000 cells (10^15) in his body that makes his almost disturbing awareness of existence and enjoyment possible. That is about 10000 times the number of galaxies in the visible universe. There, in that one chair. In that one infinitesimal spot in the already vast universe. And you know what? Each and ever of those cells on that staggering list are ultra-complex machinery working together in a well-organized, vast universe called ‘the body’. Much like galaxies in the night sky, except they don’t communicate with each other. Communication, you see, is going on all the time in your body. Organizing, developing, regulating and differentiating, all relative to what the other small communities (cells) are doing. Information is being passed in and out of the cells. Signals from the extracellular matrix propagate over the cell membranes and into the cytosol. A signal regulating the expression of a certain gene would further propagate into the nucleus, through mechanisms that are in themselves fancy enough, and finally ensure the altered gene expression. The genes coded in DNA are themselves too big to get out of the nucleus, and it is anyways better to just bring a copy, as the same recipe will be needed multiple times. After a thorough and remarkably accurate and quality assessed process of transcription, however, where the code is rewritten into an RNA-strand, the whole recipe of whatever protein was up for copying (i.e.; if this was one of the 20 000+ protein-encoding genes in the nucleus), is carried away by a messenger (mRNA) into the cytosol. Here ribosomes attach amino acids after each other according to what the recipe says. Complex mechanisms are involved all along, and we are not yet finished. However, time constraints, the impatience of the reader and a vanishing memory of the author (which should consider having his brain scanned) restrict us to go further into all of it at present. Really; I should blog about this in detail sometime. It is not that I know so much about it, but the little I have learnt, have led me into jaw dropping fascination. If you have never had the opportunity to study this subject, you are in acute danger of thinking that life is easier than it is — in its most biological sense at least… Go borrow a cell biology textbook — it’s a real page turner! All this stuff, all the processes and everything that is going on inside each and every cell. 24 7. While still coping in med-school I took courage and prompted the professor in cell biology with the remark that this is so incredible that in fact one might come in danger of making hasty assumptions. You know…I hesitated; one might want to assume there stands a creator behind it all. “Well,” she said, “that it all actually works, is really quite incredible and almost unbelievable. But somehow it does.” Well, then. Question passed in the wrong room. She could just as well have gaped a “I beg you pardon?”. The actual information in which you are coded is written in a double stranded helix inside each and every cell nucleus in your whole body. This is your DNA, which surely you have heard speaking of. In a haploid cell, there are 3 billion DNA base pairs. That is YOU spelled out the complete way in every single cell in your body.
The evolutionist will tell you it all started some 3-4 billions of years ago, when cute little cells from the same origin started swimming together in hot pools, multiplying and enjoying the. Much like the aggregated cell lumps called “humans” do to this very day. No matter how superior we are to animals, you see, there is no way you can boast. We are all built on a code remarkably similar to theirs. Wikipedia tells you that 50% of your genes are found in bananas (no wonder some of us go ban..nah… dry joke. Or…sweet, perhaps, but.. ah). We differ no more than 4% from our closest relatives; the chimpanzee. The Bible says that “without God, man is but an animal.” The student rests his pen and empties his tea. Lecture over. Some fresh air. Some neurons gone crazy up there. Frontal cortex, was it?
The fence is filling up quickly. I hope it will soon break. That people will fall like fruit and like rotten fruit to their respective sides. Gravity is a good thing still.