Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The greatest miracle is as close as my next breath

Oscar Wilde said, "The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible." The smallest insect is more worthy of our astonishment than a thousand choirs of angels. The buzzing business of a single cell is more infused with eternity than any disembodied soul.

Even as I write, a flurry of activity is going on in every cell of my body. Tiny protein-based "motors" crawl along the strands of DNA, transcribing the code into single-strand RNA molecules, which in turn provide the templates for building the many proteins that are my body's warp and weft. Other proteins help pack DNA neatly into the nuclei of cells and maintain the tidy chromosome structures. Still other protein-based "motors" are busily at work untying knots that form in DNA as it is unpacked in the nucleus of a cell and copied during cell division. Others are in charge of quality control, checking for accuracy and repairing errors. Working, spinning, ceaselessly weaving, winding, unwinding, patching, repairing -- each cell like a bustling factory of a thousand workers. A trillion cells in my body humming with the business of life.

What a thing it is to think of ourselves as manifestations of this molecular machinery, ceaselessly animating the world with sensation, emotion, intelligence. To say that it is all chemistry doesn't demean the dignity of life; rather, it suggests that the fabric of the world is charged with potentialities of a most spectacular sort. Forget all that other stuff -- the angels, the auras, the disembodied souls. Embodied soul is what really matters.