Microbes

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Apparently our own bodies are small walking planets…or verdant jungles or distinctive arboretums. Really… Newest scientific findings show we have an estimated ten times more microbes than human cells in our own bodies.  We are all teaming with unique colonies of microbes living symbiotically. 

I learned this from an article in the New York Times Science section. I quote….

 “The new surveys are helping scientists understand the many ecosystems our bodies offer microbes. In the mouth alone, Dr. Relman estimates, there are between 500 and 1,000 species. “It hasn’t reached a plateau yet: the more people you look at, the more species you get,” he said. The mouth in turn is divided up into smaller ecosystems, like the tongue, the gums, the teeth. Each tooth—and even each side of each tooth—has a different combination of species.”

The article begins with a story about a woman who was wasting away from a seemingly untreatable gut ailment. The doctor treating her, gastroenterologist Dr. Alexander Khoruts….

“….decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.

The procedure — known as bacteriotherapy or fecal transplantation — had been carried out a few times over the past few decades. But Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues were able to do something previous doctors could not: they took a genetic survey of the bacteria in her intestines before and after the transplant.

Before the transplant, they found, her gut flora was in a desperate state. “The normal bacteria just didn’t exist in her,” said Dr. Khoruts. “She was colonized by all sorts of misfits.”

Two weeks after the transplant, the scientists analyzed the microbes again. Her husband’s microbes had taken over. “That community was able to function and cure her disease in a matter of days,” said Janet Jansson, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. “I didn’t expect it to work. The project blew me away.”

Symbiosis in community?

Reading the article was an Aha! moment for me, but one that has been blossoming slowly. I’ve learned that insights have many layers of meaning.

You see, I’m clairsentient. It’s a quirky trait, wonderful as a child but for most of my life, more (truly) bothersome on a day to day basis than useful in a world of cultural and linear academic persuasions. A cacophonous parade, there seems to only be peace in nature.

All the clair-somethings run in my family….clairesentience, clairaudience, clairvoyance.  My grandmother, aunt and great aunt could all follow a swallowed pill as it transited through their systems, internally feeling the pills effect, so they rarely agreed to taking any kind of medicine. No one talked about it….being clair-whatever.  I doubt any of them were familiar with the terms. It just qualified them as being the eccentric ones in the family. We keep these things quiet in our family.

They’ve all passed away now but this “eccentricity” lives on in me and my daughter and most probably my young grandchildren. I’ve come to terms with what it means in my own life and, since I’m intimately involved in the lives of my grandchildren, I have the opportunity of teaching them to not fear the subtleties of being cognizant in their own bodies. The rest, as it is with all of us, is up to them.

For the past 14 years I’ve been maturing with these clair-something traits and so they are becoming, finally, of some use.  Becoming more aware has been an arduous endeavor, however, a daily practice, but as I become more at ease with it, my imagination considering the physical possibilities is growing.

Thus my immediate interest in the N.Y. Times article. The macro cosmic aspect of the symbiotic relationship  stuns and delights me. I’ve become a flustered hostess.

I am sure we are already communicating with the colonies of microbes that share the same space we do. Why not? We are all most intimately hanging out together.  We are probably actively doing this without realizing it…emotionally and mentally with our own persuasions conveying information, hopefully to our health.  Why not intentionally, by just being aware and honoring the relationship.

Clairsentience relative to communication,  is simply embodying insight. Insight is language. Communication is visceral. The mind is silent when listening.

I’ve learned that the simple act of respectful acknowledgement is the grace filled preliminary to a reciprocal relationship with any other form of life where there is reason for communication. Isn’t this what our species, who depended on their survival in the raw natural world understood?

Considering the fragile shape things are in…can you imagine that the need for this intrinsic protocol of respect has changed?

The link to the article is here:

  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/science/13micro.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

                                                                                     ~

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/dianemackillop/4633884472/”>Cre8iveDoodles ~ Has been ill…Back Soon!</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

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12 responses

  1. Jana,

    I found my way to this earlier post somehow, reading your recent ones on microbes. You may enjoy the work and information available at this link:

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/rnbwwrm.php

    The images on the cover of the book called The Rainbow and the Worm are snapshots of living cells, viewed through a microscopy technique developed in geological explorations which shows the birefringent properties of crystals. Turns out that the cellular matrix of living tissue is also birefringent, which means it is coherent, or highly organized into a liquid crystalline matrix. I found this work to be totally fascinating.

    Michael

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    • Thanks Michael. Never having seen the term ‘birefringence’, I dove into the internet and it sent me on an on-line exploration of birefringence which then took me to electromagnetic radiation, which steered me towards quantum electrodynamics….all well beyond an immediate appreciation.
      I wing my way through science, Michael, having little background, but am grateful when anyone points the way. The Rainbow and the Worm” seems worth teaming up with, given some time and a scientific dictionary. So thanks for this!
      xxoo

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      • I think the science if fascinating, though I’m a dabbler myself, but what is even more exciting for me is what it suggests. If we get lost in the technical aspects and miss the forest for the trees, something is missing I think. So, I don’t think it is necessary to be able to explain birefringence to anyone… But I think it is incredible that, within a living cell, molecules within the tissue exhibit a collective singularity, or occupy a state in which there is non-local unity if you will. In dead tissue, this condition does not obtain. And within living cells it is even localized to organelles or regions of the cell that have a functional alignment. It is fascinating to me because in part it speaks to the notion that the gross material of a living organism is aligned and enlivened by a field of information. Beyond that, I don’t know what it means, but it is amazing to think of the organism as a virtual electromagnetic architecture embodying and enfolding the raw materials of the earth… You can probably tell I resist accepting what might be described as the views of reductionist materialism.

        Michael

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        • For whatever reason, Michael, all I see is the forest. The various trees generally allude my understanding. This is why I’m grateful for poetry!
          I love ‘listening’ to you…your explanations wash over me with a clarity I find difficult to muster on my own.

          Being a person of few words, I do appreciate anyone who can string words together without waste. Truly…
          Please continue to explore your findings with me … it is a certain kind of poetry all on its own and one I greatly appreciate.

          Anyone who titles a book…”The Rainbow and the Worm” has my attention. It reminds me of the Rainbow Serpent in Aboriginal cosmology.

          ” The Rainbow Serpent is the first cosmological model for the spectrum range of radiation spreading from gamma rays to radio waves. Only a small portion of these rays is visible: the seven-color spectrum of natural daylight. All radiation has the same velocity and the same electromagnetic nature; the only differences between parts of the spectrum, are frequency and wave length. The electromagnetic spectrum, like the Rainbow Serpent, is a profound metaphor for the unity that exists between the tangible and the invisible world”

          After mentioning the Rainbow Serpent above, I looked and was surprised to see the above in one of my favorite books. “Voices of the First Day”
          (by Robert Lawlor). I wander through it because I love the the Aboriginal art. Their art has always informed me in ways that I find hard to explain. But here we are…finding parallels (I think) in ancient Aboriginal cosmology.

          I’ve enjoyed exploring with you today Michael. I really wish I could make more time for study to gather some of these ideas together, though I’m not unhappy with my glimpses into the forest!

          Jana xxoo

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          • Well as I said, Jana, I think witnessing the forest with fresh eyes and an open heart is “enough.” Enough to understand all that needs be understood at the level of communion and relationship. Enough to be happy and clear, and sense the river of being that ties it all together.

            I am probably somewhat contradictory in this regard– (the regard of forest vs trees)– because on the other hand sometimes I cringe when science is used to buttress some proposition about the nature of being. In these cases, the properties of a few particular trees are often offered as the very means by which a particular component of reality realizes existence. And often I think this is upside down… In these cases, it helps to understand what those little trees really are, the context in which they grew, the type of light they received, etc.

            I think ultimately, science requires frequent calibration about all that it doesn’t know, and cannot fathom. Yes we know a great deal more about these trees here, but what of the forest as a whole? We keep trying to build the forest up from close examination of the trees, missing the fact, perhaps, that each tree takes its cue from the wholeness that is the forest.

            When we think we know what the forest is, that knowledge implies something about the trees– changes the questions we may ask about them, or the scope of our search. We miss things, I think, when we fail to study the nature of the whole forest as fully as we examine the individual trees within it. But the whole forest won’t fit under a microscope, so the way we study it must be different… Aboriginal perhaps. Insightful.

            Michael

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