28 November 2008

Why Bacteria is Fascinating & Other Notes on Awe

* Bacteria and their relative, the archaea, outnumber all other life-forms (there's 5 million trillion trillion of them)

* Lined up end-to-end, they would stretch 10 billion light-years--from here to the edge of the visible universe.

* Bacteria are the oldest known life-form having been around for at least 3.5 billion years.

* The first artificial life-form will not be a robot but a bacterium. Geneticist J. Craig Veneter is building one from scratch.

* Your body has 10 times more bacterium cells than human cells

* By programming instructions into their genes, scientists have engineered E. coli that act like computers, assembling into glowing bull's eye shapes on command!

(taken in part from Discover Magazine)

So, I was reading this on the plane the other day, imagining the cabin filled with billions of swarming bacteria...and I thought about a part in a poem of mine that I am working on...it goes:

"There are tiny cities
on the skin. I always thought this: I can witness some thing
happening on my body."

And I looked down on my arms, imagining these tiny bacterium cities (no, I was not under the influence of anything) and I thought...for some living thing, I am a planet. I am a terrain.

And then I went on, shrugging this thought off, to read:

"Atomic nuclei are bound together by the so called strong force. If that force were slightly more powerful, all the protons in the early universe would have paired off and there would be no hydrogen, which fuels long-lived stars. Water would not exist, nor would any other form of life."

If these cosmic traits were just slightly altered, life as we know it would be impossible.

Slightly altered...slightly less, more, stretching over, bending back...

When one body touches another, their little cities collide. These cities, these occupants, don't understand looks, height, skin-color, eyes. They simply mix, survive, duplicate, understand the basics.

When I look at someone else, some other planet, I can't help but make snap judgments. So I thought I'd try and think only of their bodies as bodies, skin as skin, their bacterium and mine. And everyone on the plane, every body sitting uncomfortably in the cramped seats simply became skin, eyes, hair.

And strangely swirlingly beautiful.

And then I thought, if the plane went down, we'd all burn up, explode and become dark matter versions of our bodies, equal. Which we already are, balancing, for such a short time, in a universe that exists because it's nit together just so.

Makes me feel a sort of awe and wonder. Makes me want to read Tales from the Alhambra or Dante's Inferno or Alice in Wonderland...because I can, because I'm alive. Because I am a host to bacteria...and I won't always carry around these tiny cities. One day, my land form will once again be swallowed by dark energy, sucked back to a void that radiates only promises.

I just thought I'd share my moment of awe.

Because I still can.

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