The Connective Intelligence of Life
Joe Brewer

Don’t forget about the microbiome!

The assertion that “no actual boundaries exist, everything is interconnected” sometimes gets interpreted as more of a spiritual philosophy than a physical reality. Part of your point Joe, is that the latter is also true, and you use the human body as an example. But you left out the story that I think illustrates this most dramatically: approximately half of the cells in and on our bodies are actually other living entities (mostly bacteria). We’re more like a colony than a single organism.

Yes, I thought the figure was actually 90%, which is more dramatic, but apparently new studies suggest it’s “only” 50% or so, with a fairly wide variance between individuals as well — although that’s only counting bacteria, not viruses, fungi, worms, etc. In any case, the boundaries between “our” bodies and the rest of the living world are anything but clear. Even DNA is apparently is getting exchanged between us and the critters we host, never mind that we are highly symbiotic with these beasties and would die quite quickly without many of them.

Like pretty much everything else in the physical world, we are finding that the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually understand about what’s going on. Complexity upon complexity, receding into infinity! As you and others have noted elsewhere, our modern stories about eventually being able to explain everything scientifically, and thereby mastering the world — aka “scientism” — are falling apart. Which is not to say that replacing these perspectives with new stories is a useless exercise. On the contrary, it is at the heart of the work we must do to even have a chance at coming back into harmony with the world we are so deeply embedded into. As you know so well, my friend.

Onward, fellow humans!