What do we really know about the marvelous vessel we are fortunate enough to inhabit? Don’t we mostly just take it for granted? We were popped into the world without our say so, but, in return, we inherited millions of years of human evolution in the bodies we have been bequeathed.
You will be enlightened to learn that our bodies are so filled with energy that we emit light, although our eyes are too weak to detect it. Information speeds along our nerves at 400,000 miles per hour, our brains hosting 100,000 chemical reactions per second. Blood corpuscles run through our bodies, covering 20,000 kilometres daily. We breathe 20,000 times a day to provide them with the oxygen our bodies need to function.
Our noses can differentiate three trillion different scents, and our eyes millions of different colours. Our skin has 100 pain sensors per square centimetre. Our stomachs are producing more new cells faster than those that are being destroyed by the acids of digestion. We produce one litre of saliva a day to keep things juicy. Operating all this is the work of our brains, which are actually more active when we are asleep than when we are awake.
Did we luck out or what? The most amazing thing is that, most of the time, the apparatus keeps on working for a lifetime with few or no problems. Our hearts beat away three billion times during our lives, we consume 35 tons of food on average and shed two to four kilograms of skin every year.
Women will be interested to know that their tongues are blessed with more taste buds than their male counterparts. They may be less happy to learn that we have 67 different types of bacteria in our bellybuttons and more bacteria in our mouths than the number of people on this planet.
With all of this going on in our bodies automatically, what are we in charge of? Where do we come in? Where does individual will come from? What is it that makes us the particular person we are? When do we get to be the person we think we are?
That may be where DNA comes in. That is the stuff our parents gave us, half the package from each of them. Out of the incredible hodge-podge that each of them got from their parents – millions, maybe billions, of different potentialities – chance determined the particular combination of traits we received from them. What we got influenced not just our physical heritage, but our mental and emotional elements are inherited, as well. After that, given some reasonable nurturing (something a lot of kids don’t get), each of us is on our own to make what we can of what we got.
We have five main chemicals in the brain, most of them variations of the feel-good type. We tend to pursue activities and things that make us feel good and that stimulate the flow of those chemicals in our brains.
We work because we enjoy the work, or because we enjoy having the money we will earn from that work. We pursue the company and attentions of those who make us feel good, sometimes becoming addicted (falling in love?) and desiring a permanent attachment. We strive because achieving the object of our effort will give us pleasure, be it knowledge, respect, money, power, fame, or all of them.
The vigour with which we pursue these things may arise from our DNA or from the kind of nurturing we experienced in our growing up, or both. Studies have shown that, in identical twins separated at birth, genetics accounted for 50% to 70% of outcomes and behaviours. There is little doubt that DNA programming is important, but behavioural differences between individuals can lead to different outcomes.
For some of us, all this may have relevance only to the degree it illuminates the course our own life is taking or has taken. Do we feel we got a fair shake in the lottery that landed us in the birth basket we arrived in? Did the environment we arrived in, the legacy our DNA bestowed on us, give us a fair chance to grab the golden ring(s) that satisfied our aspirations or desires? Did our grit and determination permit us to overcome the obstacles we faced in life so that we are more satisfied with where we are compared to where we started from? Are we happy?
Our lives are the body of proof.
Max Roytenberg is a Vancouver-based poet, writer and blogger. His book Hero in My Own Eyes: Tripping a Life Fantastic is available from Amazon and other online booksellers. The term “body of proof,” used in this article, is taken from the name of a television drama about a medical examiner that ran on ABC from 2011 to 2013.