Sunday, March 29, 2009

Where I End And You Begin

We think we know what we are, where our boundaries lie. We look at our skin and think, “That's where I stop and the rest of the world begins.”

But it's not that simple. We breathe in molecules; oxygen, nitrogen, carbon. We eat all sorts of atoms. We don't know where all they've been. And those atoms of unknown origin are what our bodies use to repair cells, distill neurotransmitters, concoct enzymes, and cook up hormones.

Each of our cells has membranes that allow only things as small as a molecule in or out. You eat something, like a banana, and it gets broken down in your gut into molecules that pass through the wall of your small intestine into your body. Those molecules get passed around from cell to cell as needed. If one cell needs potassium, it sucks some in. If a cell has too much potassium, it pushes some molecules back out through its membrane. Eventually, some of the potassium molecules that were once part of a banana, and more recently part of you, get sent packing completely to possibly fertilize a banana tree if you live where banana trees grow.

Your whole body is made up of molecules borrowed temporarily from the rest of the world. What you add to those molecules is your own style of consciousness. You can tack on a bit of energetic feeling to those potassium molecules. What will you give to the banana tree? That feeling of disgust as you look at your flabby tummy and smell the sweat you’ve built up coming home on the bus after a day working a job you hate? Or something else?

Breathe in and feel whatever you feel. Breathe out and thank all those molecules heading off to other bodies, wish them well, for all the cells they touched.

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