No one can really remain a materialist
11/27/2011 § Leave a comment
After seeing Apoptosis At Work No one can really remain a materialist
Phenomenon called apoptosis says “For every cell there is a time to live and a time to die.”
Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and although we don’t realize it, each of us has been dying every day, right on schedule, in order to remain alive. Cells die because they want to. The cell carefully reverses the birth process: It shrinks, it destroys its basic proteins, and then it goes on to dismantle its own DNA.Bubbles appear on the surface membrane as the cell opens its portals to the outside world and expels every vital chemical, to finally be swallowed up by the body’s white cells exactly as they would devour an invading microbe. When the process is complete, the cell has dissolved and leaves no trace behind.
When we read this graphic account of a cell sacrificing itself so methodically, you can’t help being touched. Yet the mystical part is still to come. Apoptosis isn’t a way to get rid of sick or old cells, as you might suppose. The process gave us birth. As embryos in the womb, each of us passed through primitive stages of development when we had tadpole tails, fishlike gills, webbing between our fingers, and most surprisingly, too many brain cells. Apoptosis took care of these unwanted vestiges—in the case of the brain, a newborn baby forms proper neural connections by removing the excess brain tissue that we were all born with. (It came as a surprise when neurologists discovered that our brains contain the most cells at birth, a number which gets whittled down by the millions so that higher intelligence can forge its delicate web of connections. It was long thought that killing off brain cells was a pathological process associated with aging. Now the whole issue must be reconsidered.)
Apoptosis doesn’t end in the womb, however. Our bodies continue to thrive on death. The immune cells that engulf and consume invading bacteria would turn on the body’s own tissues if they didn’t induce death in each other and then turn on themselves with the same poisons used against invaders. Whenever any cell detects that its DNA is damaged or defective, it knows that the body will suffer if this defect is passed on. Fortunately, every cell carries a poison gene known as p53 that can be activated to make itself die.
These few facts barely scratch the surface. Anatomists long ago knew that skin cells die every few days;that retinal cells, red blood cells, and stomach cells also are programmed with specific short life spans so that their tissues can be quickly replenished. Each dies for its own unique reason. Skin cells have to be sloughed off so that our skin remains supple, while stomach cells die as part of the potent chemical combustion that digests food.
Death cannot be our enemy if we have depended upon it from the womb. Consider the following irony.As it turns out, the body is capable of taking a vacation from death by producing cells that decide to live forever. These cells don’t trigger p53 when they detect defects in their own DNA. And by refusing to issue their own death warrants, these cells divide relentlessly and invasively. Cancer, the most feared of diseases, is the body’s vacation from death, while programmed death is its ticket to life. This is the paradox of life and death confronted head on. The mystical notion of dying every day turns out to be the body’s most concrete fact.
What this means is that we are exquisitely sensitive to the balance of positive and negative forces, and when the balance is tipped, death is the natural response. Nietzsche once remarked that humans are the only creatures who must be encouraged to stay alive. He couldn’t have known that this is literally true.Cells receive positive signals that tell them to stay alive—chemicals called growth factors. If these positive signals are withdrawn, the cell loses its will to live. Like the Mafia’s kiss of death, the cell can also be sent messengers that bind to its outer receptors to signal that death has arrived—these chemical messengers are actually known as “death activators.”
A Harvard Medical School professor had discovered an amazing fact. There is a substance that causes cancer cells to activate new blood vessels so that they can get food. Medical research has focused on finding out how to block this unknown substance so that malignant growths can be deprived of nutrients and thus killed. The professor discovered that the exact opposite substance causes toxemia in pregnant women, a potentially fatal disorder in which the blood vessels are “unhappy” that they are undergoing normal programmed cell death. “You realize what this means?” he said with deep awe. “The body can trigger chemicals in a balancing act between life and death, and yet science has totally ignored who is doing the balancing. Doesn’t the whole secret of health lie in that part of ourselves, not in the chemicals being used?” The fact that consciousness could be the missing ingredient, theX factor behind the scenes, came to him as a revelation.
Apoptosis rescues us from fear, I think. The death of a single cell makes no difference to the body.What counts is not the act but the plan—an overarching design that brings the balance of positive and negative signals that every cell responds to. The plan is beyond time because it dates to the very construction of time. The plan is beyond space because it is everywhere in the body and yet nowhere—every cell as it dies takes the plan with it, and yet the plan survives.
So after seeing Apoptosis At Work No one can really remain a materialist.
– Deepak Chopra
Source: The BOOK of SECRETS Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life