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Sunday, 25 October 2015





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What a body! What a body of thoughts!

'To be really medieval one should have no body. To be really modern one should have no soul. To be really Greek one should have no clothes.' - Oscar Wilde, from Complete Works of Oscar Wilde.

Life is like a game of chess. To win we have to make a move; but knowing which move to make comes with insight, knowledge, and by learning the lessons along the way. Thus, we are no more than like pawns on a chessboard - piece within the game called life. No matter whether we believe in luck or chance, desires and dreams drive our urges. The greatest urge of humanity is inner peace; and the first peace, which is the most important to us humans, is that which comes from within the hearts of people when they realize their relationship to all else - their oneness with the universe and all life.


When they realize that the universe is all, that its apresence is everywhere, they will also realize that it is within each of us. Yet, even if they realize it, humans are so hypocritical that they find the most important things as truth are the hardest things to say and accept. For instance, when a man sees a beautiful fountain of blood in the shape of a woman, she pumps up his adrenalin; but ask and he will deny. Even when his body betrays him, his mind will deny, and say, I am not my body.

Now that raises the question: what is him or her, or I for that matter? Are we embodied spirits or inspirited bodies; or else embodied minds or minded bodies? I suppose most will say my body is I, while a few might say my mind is what I am. None will think of saying: I think, therefore I essentially am; I create myself to be, I am my own making. Nevertheless, this question cannot be that easily resolved because our alleged duality is hard to understand. Many are tempted to resolve the difficulty by belittling the significance of one or the other aspect, declaring instead that either our minds or our bodies are the seats of our "real" identities.

In a very basic sense though, I think we are nothing more than mere creatures with lofty longings who are, burdened by being bound to our flesh. Yet, Plato in his Symposium invites us to wonder whether one of our deepest longings - desire - is a bodily thing. St. Augustine, on the other hand, in an excerpt from his autobiographical Confessions, attempts to renounce the desires of his body in the name of celibacy and piety. One American poet, Delmore Schwartz in The Heavy Bear, expresses the anguish of a soul who longs to be free of his bodily desires and its inescapable appetites.

Thus, we see a confusing array of thoughts and longings about the body and the mind that makes us wonder whether a body and its separate parts are one-and-same. However, due to temptation of the body and mind, we humans have made laws and principles that dictate and govern social etiquette.

These laws and principles are, however, not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour. Naturally, all of us, at our convenience, break them. After all, if you like a person, you like the person, not their genitals.


Social norms and stuff, what good are they really. I think all they do is project a limited and harmful image of people. It thus impedes a broader social acceptance of what someone, or a group of people, might actually be like. I may be considered weird for saying such things; but so what? Everybody is weird. Religions, most of them anyway, say: the body is a sin. Science says, the body is a machine. Advertising says, the body is a business. The body says it is a fiesta and not a temple. Thus, the body, if anything, is akin to an amusement park: enjoy the ride, while it lasts.

Setting aside for the moment the body and the body of thoughts on body, mind, and desires; let us, for a moment, look at what this body truly is.

Most of us believe that the human body is the best work of art and a fit, healthy body is the best fashion statement we can make to impress other bodies. Yet, do you realize that, you carry a zoo on your skin, and in your body? For instance, you may think you are sitting alone but still be completely outnumbered because your body is home to trillions upon trillions of tiny passengers - bacteria. Human body is, made up of around ten trillion cells; but harbours hundred trillion bacteria. For every gene in your genome, there are 100 bacterial ones. This, your body, is your 'micro-biome': the home of microorganisms. Do you know that these trillions of unknown, unfelt visitors who have made their home in and on your body have a huge impact on your health, your ability to digest food, and on many more matters? You also, in turn, affect them.


Everything from the food you eat to the way you are born; influences the species of bacteria that take up residence in our bodies. You inherited your microbiomes from your mother, picking up billions of them as you slide from her largely bacteria-free womb through her microbe-laden vagina.

To the passenger bacteria, the human body must seem like an entire planet, full of different ecosystems. This is especially true for those that live on your skin. At the microscopic scale, the hairy, moist surface of your armpits is as different from the smooth, dry skin of your forearms as a rainforest is to a desert. In a thorough survey of our skin microbiome, scientists have identified species from at least 205 different genera. Thus, you are not alone: 205 other species live with you.

Your forearm has the richest community with an average of 44 species, while your nostril, ears, and inguinal crease - that part between leg and groin - are the most stable habitats. Despite its diversity, the skin microbiome is a tiny country village compared to the bustling metropolis inside your bowels. The dark corridors of your intestine house more bacteria than any other part of your body and each of your bowels carries at least 160 bacterial species. Together, your collective guts have just under, 3.3 million bacterial genes, more than 150 times as many as reside in your own genomes. What is more, you rely on these microscopic passengers more than you realize.


They harvest energy from your food, provide you with nutrients that would otherwise be, denied to you; prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

The bacteria of your microbiome are mostly your allies; but they can also turn against you, they can also go rogue, and cause untold troubles to you. Your microscopic allies can turn into unwitting collaborators for dangerous infections.

Our history, as well as the story of human evolution, is in our bowels: be they the bowels of mercy or the churning bowels.

The teeming masses of the microbiome that you carry also contain a record of your evolutionary past because bacteria trade genes as easily as humans trade gifts. Hence, we could reconstruct the evolution of the humans by simply comparing the bacteria in their bowels.

Thus, if you wish to know the background of your wife's, or girl friend's evolution, simply study the bowels. We are each a unified alliance between the genes of several different species, only one of which is human. Thus, I wonder: What a body! What a body of thoughts! Praise unto the bowels of the universe that offers us such variety in body, mind, and desires.

For views, reviews, encomiums, and brickbats: [email protected]


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