Body Building (wink)

Posted: January 30, 2012 in Science
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Body Building (wink)

O.K., it is a play on words. I am not really going to talk about how to build up your muscles so you can lift weights or exude a fabulous physique. I am thinking about bodies of people. O.K., that is not clear either. I am thinking about groups of people, a body of people. But there are analogies to the human body, so that is where the word play comes in.

In the last decade, there has been a growing interest in the “foreign” bodies that make up the body we as individuals live in. In the December, 2010 Science magazine, Elizabeth Pennisi points out that these “foreign” cellular bodies out number the cells that carry our unique DNA 9 to 1. That is, for every cell in our body that we can identify as us, there are 9 cells carrying DNA distinct from our own. They exist in our mouths, esophagus, skin, stomach, colon, etc. We tend to think that bacteria all belong to a class of harmful foreign bodies. However, research is discovering that the large majority of these “foreign” bodies contribute to our well being. I realized, reading this brief article that I had been seeing references to this in several places recently.

Personal experience tells me that the collection of bacteria in my gut and not the same ones that my wife has in her gut. We have both observed that food can affect us differently. A food that causes flatulence in one of us does not necessarily do the same for the other. It seems obvious that our guts are operating differently. The implication is that these gut “bugs” contribute or at least alter the digestive process in different ways. There is speculation that this significant colony of “foreign” bodies, existing in great variety among humans and most likely other animals as well, could explain a lot about how and why certain diseases affect some people but not others.

But, as I was reading this article, it occurred to me it was an example of community organizing. It takes a rather large collection of rather diverse cells to make a “me.” In fact, it is questionable whether or not a self reference ought to be “we” instead of “I”. We are a collection of many parts, not just organs, but organisms all working in relative harmony to make an “us” as opposed to a “me.” It seems to me that the “we” is a demonstrative example of an organized effort.

I/we would imagine that in the years to come, this study will become more robust and our perception of who “we” are will shift so that we see how we are each individual societies, living cooperatively, symbiotically, to create the unique individuals that we are. And, it might become an example of the importance of organized efforts of groups/bodies of people and a reduction in the idea that the individual is so valuable in isolation from other individuals in so far as making the society in which we live healthy. Only time will tell. I doubt I will live long enough to see the result.

  1. My belief is that the only way that a “we” can be achieved with no expense to the “I’s”, could be a downscaling of the groups we form as a society. I don’t know the number, but if I had to risk an answer, I’d say probably beyond 200.000 people, organizational patterns become too anonymous and impossible to manage, without starting to apply some kind of hierarchical (aka “representative”) system.

    • I believe it was in Malcom Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” that he suggested the size of a functional organization was around 200 people. After that, it took some kind of organizational structure. We apparently can’t easily relate to more than that magic number.

      • Wow, I missed the magic number by 1000 times….!!!!
        Thanks, for the data. I will research some more on the topic for that could well be the future path, or the path to “Nevermore”. That magic number, sounds pretty close to the amount of contacts recommended also by social media experts (Linkedin, Facebook), although many people add friends like stamps….. 😛

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