08 Aug DNA – The miracle molecule
Let us spare a moment for the paradoxically infinitesimally small and astronomically large essence of life. The miracle of nature that every living thing shares, the molecule that unites us all and equilibrates all the superficial difference that we see with our eyes. There is an incredible book called The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the origins of life by Jeremy Narby which I would recommend getting a copy of. In it he discusses the relationship between science and shamanism with some fascinating concepts and figures.
DNA consists of numbers far beyond what we can comprehend. It is 120x narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light and so even the most powerful optical microscope can not reveal it. It resides in the salty water of the nucleus of the cell and is coiled up so tightly that it lives in a home which is 2 millionths the size of a pinhead and yet sitting inside each and everyone of our 75 trillion cells, is an approximately 2 metre long strand of DNA which is 10 atoms thick (as if your little finger stretched from London to Los Angeles), meaning that all the DNA in your body would stretch 140 billion miles.
It is so remarkably efficient that it’s building blocks haven’t changed in an estimated 3.85 billion years and has instigated the creation of all the vast species of organic life that are alive today or have become extinct over time. There are only 4 letters in the alphabet of DNA and it is only the order of the letters that results in the differences between the tens of millions of species that have ever existed. The terrain of the earth has been constantly evolving and changing, and yet through all this uncertainty and chaos, from the bitter cold and eternal blackness of the depths of the oceans, to the sulphur rich environment of volcanoes to the privileged inhabitants of Parsons Green, our common denominators, the wiring that has somehow designed itself to remain hidden, has remained unchanged.
Many ancient and indigenous cultures, past and present have spoken, written and drawn twinned serpents, spiral ladders and braided ropes. From the Aborigines and ancient Egyptians to the shamans of Siberia, North America, Africa and the Amazon, there is a constant theme that runs through there myths, teachings and wisdom. They spoke about the twinned serpents being the sacred energy of life and the intelligence that runs our existence. In the Far East they have the yin-yang and even in our perhaps more sceptical society, we have the caduceus as the symbol of western medicine. There seems to be an inherent understanding that there something unnamable and undefinable that underpins our existence and the parallels between the images and language used in various cultures and the modern discoveries of the structure and function of DNA are compelling.
These correlations, similarities and coincidences are definitely interesting but what does this mean? If there was someway that the shamans of these tribes could understand the essence of life, before electron microscopes and DNA staining techniques, then perhaps there is an intelligence that goes deeper than what our senses can perceive. Maybe it is just a reminder to stay curious, keep investigating and contemplate the mysteries of the universe.
DNA, thank you.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead -his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms-this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” – Albert Einstein