In the world of language the single and the simple is the letter, while in the world of music and painting it is the note, and the brushstroke respectively. The letter moves on to the word, the note to the bar, and the brush stroke to an object in the painting. In biology the cell is the basis of the organ and organism. The Mozarts, van Goghs, Einsteins and Shakespeare’s of the world, organized connected and integrated the units in such a way so as to create a genius result – certainly one that is more powerful than the individual parts. The parts are there for all artists to create, but the ability to connect, and organize in an optimal environment, and to create a genius result, requires a facilitator and in the case of the arts and literature it is the genius who facilitates.
In biology, years of evolution have slowly crafted the human body into a miraculous machine which we have the good fortune to own, honor , learn about, and opportunity to unravel and understand its mysteries in the context of biology. We know to some extent of the parts, the links, the organization and the environment, and in the instances of chemical reactions we see the work of facilitators such as enzymes, and coenzymes. We yearn to understand the facilitator of the grand scheme at large. We have many ideas and takers, and peopple live and die by their faith and beliefs – but we do not really know.
The yearning to be “one” drives us, whether we conciously know it or not. The atom thinks it is indivisible (and probably invincible) but it also has smaller parts. The atom by itself is powerless unless it combines with similar atoms to make up molecule. This same feeling of power and individuality comes to the cell, which for practical purposes, is the smallest living individual and independent unit in biology. It is made up of smaller parts of macromolecules that combine to form microstructures such as the ribosome, endoplasmic reticulum, and the nucleus. All parts in combination make up the cell, giving it singularity and oneness. The cell is powerless without the tissue, and so it combines with similar cells to humble itself before the tissue. Although the tissue claims individuality, it too seeks combination with other tissue as it searches for oneness in the organ. The seeming accomplishment of unity continues through the body to the individual, the family, the community of the village, the community of the nation and the community of the world – and even the solar system, which bears uncanny structural similarity to the atom. The solar system probably thinks it is the end of the world, but the universe has a surprise in store. At this writing, the universe resides at on the one end and the atom on the other – both claiming singularity – but some suspect there may be something beyond both of them.
As each of the biological units builds, whether it is the cell, tissue, organ system, body, person or community, the larger units are more empowered by the conglomeration of the smaller, but the uniqueness and value of the smaller is essential. Each part , no matter how small is an essential part of the final makeup, and without the individual parts the whole is not whole. A missing gene in a sequence – or even for that matter an amissing amino acid can make a world of difference in an individual. It may mean life or death. The eventual unit not only requires that the component parts be present, but that they are organized and appropriately positioned to enable the unit to work, and work efficiently. As a literary parallel, the word is more empowered than its individual letters, and the sentence more than the word, but without the well placed and organized words and sentences the story is no story. In music, the bar is more empowered than the note, while the song is more empowered than the bar, and again without the notes the music organized and linked in a specific way, there is no music. The genius of Shakespeare, Mozart and daVinci has been the result of how they combined the units of their art to produce a product that spoke genius and truth to us. In the body, organization, positioning, and linking of the structural and functional biological units is critical. Thus it can be said that as similar building blocks combine, they build a product that is more powerful than the individual parts, but the power of the whole is only as good as the quality and organization of its individual parts.
Copyright 2012 Courtesy Ashley Davidoff MD 108275b04.75bk.8s