Programed Cell Death In Disney Land
From 1942 to 1944 Rita Montalcini looked at chicken embryos under a microscope in her small room, after it was forbidden for Jews to attend university.
She cut off the tiny legs or wings of the embryos and then noticed that there were some cells that died in the spinal cord, some nerve cells. She figured out that if the nerve cells didn't receive some kind of signal from the missing limb, they would die.
She did drawings of sections of the cells hour by hour.
It turns out that programmed cell death is a vital process in every living being. We are created as much by death as by life. In any hour, billions of our own cells are told to kill themselves, which they do. Apparently without complaint. And their bodies are subsumed by healthy cells.
We start off with our little fingers and toes webbed together. It is programmed cell death that kills off the webbing and leaves our digits free.
Death is the same thing as life.
It isn't any different.
I've been bothered in the past few days by my feeling that there isn't any such thing as a soul, any such thing as an afterlife, anything after this life for me.
I found myself feeling very much as if I didn't matter, that none of us do, very much. Not the individual, at all. It's the multitude of us that counts, the species, the hairy fucking breath of life that courses through our cells, our bodies, our multitudes- that's what matters.
I started to feel like it might be okay to die, or to kill off this one or that one, for whatever reason. I mean, what's one life in the big scheme of things? If there is no soul? No God? No Buddha? No judge, no jury? Just the blind mechanism, working away?
But then I started to think that that only made each individual life even more precious, more rare and heartbreakingly unique.
I mean, if you get to go to heaven, or get reincarnated, then what the fuck? What happens to this bag of bones, this rag of flesh, it isn't really important. A few score years in the vast sea of timelessness, of eternity.
But if this really is it?
My God. It's worth the world.
Each precious second ticking away is a vastness of wealth lost and lost and lost again.
We are made paupers.
We are bankrupted.
I love this life. I love my mind and my body and my wife and my child and my dogs and my job and my friends and sex and drink and food and strife and struggle and the cessation of struggle.
I love the oar and the sea and the strong muscles of the back and arms and the hot sun and the salt spray. I love to fight and fuck and eat and cry and long for what is lost. I am a bum and an idiot and a failure. I am a genius and an artist and a god, a snake and a saint and a fool.
I keep thinking of that guy who threw himself off the Golden Gate bridge. The second his hands left the railing, he knew he'd made a mistake.
Our understanding is but small, but perhaps sufficient to see that our world is an unending wonder factory.
Mine seems to be.