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FTIAT: Living Systems

Andrew (Lucid Dreams & Saturn Skies) intrigues me with the merger of meditation and the macabre on his blog. It’s a unique merger that keeps me coming back for more.

He shares my love of horror, and has even helped feed my own with his horror stories.  I enjoy reading his blog features about terrifying things–more so when they’re fictional than when they’re true!–but am equally fond of his reflective posts.

Recommended post: As the Life of A Flower

Living Systems

Initially, when Deb approached me about FTIAT, I drew a blank. It isn’t that I don’t have gratitude for all the wonderful people and things in my life – I do. It was that I couldn’t quite find a way to express what I wanted to express. That coupled with the craziness surrounding the last semesters of my undergrad career led me to put the project in my digital dustbin. However, a recent conversation with a close friend and another invitation from Deb conspired to swat me upside the head with inspiration.

Hang on to your hats folks. Things are about to get science-y!

You see, I am a biology major (and a business major, in the interest of full disclosure). Naturally, I find the science fascinating. So does one of my closest friends, who is enrolled in her first college biology class at the moment. It’s kind of funny how minds can meld during a close friendship, even if said brains are separated by thousands of miles. (My friend lives in Alaska.) You see, as I recall it, she and I were basically struck by the same pseudo-epiphany almost the same day, and it was that conversation that led to this post.

The more I study biology, the more I am amazed that any living system works at all. We are used to thinking of our body as a single whole, but that could not be further from the truth. In reality, each and every one of us are a super colony of trillions upon trillions of interconnected and symbiotic cells and bacteria.

All of the intricate structures that make up our bodies are either made of cells or are secreted by said cells. Said cells are regulated by the genetic code: DNA. The acronym DNA is tossed around quite a bit, thanks to shows like CSI and NCIS, but as with many of the other acronyms we use on a daily basis, many use it without knowing what it’s short for. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, and it acts as the molecule that confers inheritance. In a basic biological sense, if not a psycho-spiritual one, DNA makes you you.

Crazy, right? You know what’s crazier? At the end of the day, DNA is just a bunch of stringy white goop. Seriously. One day in lab I was twirling a bunch of fruit DNA we’d isolated on the end of a glass stir rod, amazed that this pulpy looking gunk was quite literally the stuff of life.

That white stringy gunk is responsible for everything. It contains within it the recipe of life. Somehow it can direct all the varied cells to find their proper place in the body. Not only that, it contains within it code for the mechanisms that allow said cells to communicate with one another, to divide, and even to kill themselves.

What is more, DNA is the code for all known life. From bacteria to elephants to people, all organisms use the same molecule both to replicate themselves and to provide the recipe for their living bodies. It’s all wonderfully complex and, especially for those trying to unravel life’s mysteries, often very confusing.

So you might be wondering at this point what I am thankful for. Life itself. Not only is how it works amazing, but it’s amazing that it works in the first place!

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  1. August 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    This? Is terrific.

  2. John Erickson
    August 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    It’s more amazing that we’ve risen to the level of sophistication as life forms that we have. considering the truly minute differences in DNA between your basic plankton and a human being. Now all we need to do is find those non-carbon-based lifeforms – where’s a Horta when you need one? 😉

  3. August 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    This is an absolutely brilliant post. Thank you for inviting this star Deb, and thank you Andrew for succumbing.

  4. August 18, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    DNA fascinates me, always. Being adopted and not knowing where I fit always made me ‘not fit’ then one day I did fit but I still didn’t fit which made me start questioning the entire string of DNA vs upbringing. Now I know most of it isn’t relevant at all. You have clarified it even more!

    All the white gunk just makes me … well, me. How very cool is that. Just brilliant.

  1. August 31, 2012 at 3:35 am

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