Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Not the Soup, It's the Croutons...No It's the Soup

I was pondering DNA the other day. There's been so much talk over the last few years about the wonder of DNA, and what the various codings mean, and how there're sections of DNA that seem to have no use, etc...

I was talking about something similar, some biological molecular activity, a few days later with my daughter, and we were noticing how people anthropomorphisize biological chemical action with phrases like "it seeks out the bactiria" or "the virus looks for an opening in the immune system" and so on, and how people rarely, if ever, describe what is really happening... which is molecules are randomly bumping around in cells and blood streams and stomaches and so on, and they just happen to hit another molecule just right so that there is a reaction of the sort described. Molecules have no "brains" or volition. There is no actual "seeking" or "looking" occuring.

Then following that, I was pondering DNA again and suddenly realized that DNA does nothing. That is to say, if you take a strand of DNA and put it on a table and wait, you will be waiting for many kalpa's and still nothing will happen. It's rather stupid to talk about DNA as if it itself was something.

DNA is pointless without a cell to be in. DNA does nothing unless it is suspended in the soup of the cell.

And by extension, of course, a cell does nothing unless it is in the community of a tissue, in an organism, in an enviroment, on a planet, in the universe.

Of course there is analogy here to this idea of "self." We can often be certain that we are distinct, stand alone entities that "are something" independet of everything else. But of course, we are not. Like DNA, strand us on a cold steel table by ourselves, and we do nothing, we are nothing, we quickly die.

I have to add to this my favorite fun fact that there are more than 10 to 100 trillion bacteria cells in and on the average human body which itself has only 1 trillion cells. This means that there are far more non-you cells (by count, not by mass, bacteria cells are very small) on/in your body than there are you-you cells. Do you really imagine you could survive without all those trillions of not-you?

You are indeed there, like DNA is there, but that is just identifying one particular bump on the blanket, one crouton in the soup. You have no function, purpose, identity, by yourself. It is the whole bowl of soup that is a "something". The only independent thing there is is the whole universe.

If only we crouton's could really live this way! If we could stop being "self" aware, and be more "all of it as it is flowing" aware. Just enjoy the local eddies in the soup bowl, rather than struggling to think you are not linked to them.


Jeremy said...


Uku said...

Just enjoy the local eddies in the soup bowl, rather than struggling to think you are not linked to them.

Great post, thank you, Lauren!

Barry said...

Maybe those "non-you" cells - the parasites, bacteria, amoeba, viruses, etc. - are actually us? Maybe we're not separate in any meaningful way.

Well, I'm not a biologist...

...just a crouton, jumping back into the salad! Or was it the soup?

dochong, jdpsn said...


Just found your blog, and I must say that the analogy is quite impressive. You make the point well so keep up the good work.

NellaLou said...

No it's the noodles, particularly in the Alphabet soup of the Blog Cafeteria.

Lauren said...

Dochong. Thanks. You got me on a lucky day. Most of the time I'm just crying about navel lint.

NellaLou - Oh noodles. I love boiling noodles. That's how I explain the fabric of the universe to myself...a pot of boiling noodles. Sometimes it comes up me, and sometimes it comes up you. But its all the same stuff. (I always imagine boiling buckwheat soba. Nice and earthy!)