Electricity

If you ever touched a live wire, or two poles of a battery, you have experienced your sensitivity for and conductivity of electricity. Don’t worry if you haven’t. Your nervous system acts as a communication network, transmitting information from our senses, muscles and organs back and forth.

You have three cloud networks for all the electricity buzzing along your nerve cells right now, coordinating millions of simultaneous signals along simple rules. Each node of the network has lots of input and output connections to other nodes, and can fire impulses more than 100 times per second.

Multiply this with trillions of neurons, and you will understand that a lot of electrickery happens within your nervous system at any given moment, definitely much more you want to spend attention on.

The cloud networks host the centre of each node, the body of a nerve cell. Out of the cell body grow the communication channels, the axons. When you pick up a cup, the axons on your fingertips connect with the nerve cell body within the brain. Imagine axons as tentacles of neurons.

Your arms and legs fulfil different functions from your trunk or your head. Limbs seem more disposable, but rarely develop a life on their own. Skin covers the entire surface of your body, and that’s precisely where your brain ends. Your nervous system looks more like a jelly fish with heaps of entangled tentacles than the inside of a walnut.

If you could see a little blue dot when a nerve cell body in the brain fires, and a tinier golden dot as the signal moves along its tentacle, then you would witness a brilliant fire work. Not all of your electric activity focusses in your brain. Add green dots for nerve cell body within the heart, and orange dots for the gut nervous system to add a bit more sparkle.

The spine contains abundant numbers of neural cell bodies while connecting the cloud network centres heart, brain and guts. It contains the colours of the rainbow from red to light blue, your skull adds the remaining frequencies of the visible spectrum.

Luckily, like all systems in your body, the electric system largely organises itself in response to its internal and external environment. On the highest level, you can distinguish (with some training) the nerve centres for thinking, feeling and moving.

As an experiment, map the gut centre (lower dan tien) as the feeling centre, the brain as movement centre and the heart as thinking centre.

Movement

For as long as the human body lives, it maintains movement within. Our breath moves our lungs, blood absorbs the oxygen by moving in bursts through its vessels, electrical pulses move along nerves, interstitial fluid flows along its channels, connective tissue is moved by breath and blood. This happens all the time, and you haven’t even moved a single muscle consciously.

You affect processes like breathing and heart rate to a certain degree by conscious means, but without necessary knowing to which effect. Usually, the way in which the autonomous systems work, reflects emotional states and/or the physical activity you engage in.

Unless you learn a new way of moving, like dance, martial arts moves or other physical skills, voluntary movement happens by executing habitual patterns. It took you a while to master the art of walking and talking, of reading and writing, yet now this activities requiring a complex set of muscular coordination happen by pure intention.

If you ever engaged in ‘ghosting’ (copying the way another person walks), you get an idea that the simple act of taking a step forward has quite a lot of individual variations of doing it. Hundreds of muscles acting on the 206 bones in a human body allow for many ways of doing something simple like walking.

The habits of voluntary movement affect the quality of the involuntary movements essential to keep you alive. A simple experiment can give you an immediate experience of this relation. Let your head slowly move towards the ground, curling your spine. When you can’t curl anymore without effort, try taking what you think of as deep breath.

You might have noticed that this bodily configuration restricts the movement of your ribs, and interfered quite a lot with getting much air into your lungs. Less air means less fuel for the metabolic processes happening inside your body, which in turn can limit what you intent to achieve.

Of course, it’s unlikely that this forward curl looks anywhere near how you usually move through your life. This experiment just illustrates that your voluntary movements interact with the involuntary movements, quite often in not beneficial ways. Luckily, no matter how you deliberately distort your body, it’s usually not immediately life threatening.

Transforming interfering habits into supporting habits pays off. Despite the majority of people using their body not really aligned with its design, the life expectancy averages at 69 years.  The way how you move through life will affect how long you live, and how happy you feel on your journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instruction manual for human bodies – networks

All subdivisions of the system called human body are arbitrary to a certain extend, most ‘components’ prove essential to the survival and well being of the organism. Beneath your skin lies a complex, interactive system requiring smooth interactions of every cell involved. This manual uses other systems that have been engineered as comparison to illustrate functions of the human body.

The cells of a human body differ slightly from a single cell organism, as they specialise to become part of other subsystems (eg flesh, bones, blood, organs, etc). The environment of a human body cell determines which function it will fulfil, yet it still has the same life cycle as the whole organism.

Unless you’re very young, none of your body cells from your birth is still around. It takes about seven years to replace all of your currently existing cells with new ones. Most of the cells you move through the world aren’t even yours, as you carry more micro-organisms on your skin and in your guts than those with your own DNA.

Your digestive system needs a microbiome to function – without bacteria living in your stomach and intestines you couldn’t process food.  The human body compares well to a symbiotically living large community of autonomous entities, not so well to an army of obedient cells following the order of general brain.

Just after conception, unspecialised identical cells divide until there are enough to build a hollow sphere, the blastula. In the next stage of development, three different layers diversify the cells of an embryo into endo-, meso- and ectoderm.

The innermost layer, the endoderm will develop into most internal organs, the middle layer (mesoderm) gives rises to muscles, bones, connective tissue, heart, kidneys, gonads and the ectoderm ends up as skin, tooth enamel and the entire nervous system.

These three layers mix up thoroughly in the torso, while limbs and head only contain cells descending from the meso- and ectoderm. Several fractal interconnected networks within the whole body emerge: the nervous system, the fascia system and the circulatory system (blood vessels and lymphatic system).

The concept of morphogenetic fields offers the most plausible explanation to the magic of cells with identical DNA in the same environment suddenly diversifying and specialising. Don’t worry too much if you couldn’t follow the quite technical description so far. I will point out the essential parts for the how-to section of the manual.

Here’s what you need to know from this section. Several interconnected systems work within the human body: An electrical system, a plumbing system and a structural support system.

 

Instruction manual for human bodies

Welcome to the most useful manual you will read. Self-programming, self-regenerating carbon units come without a manual, which often leads to more malfunctioning than necessary.

Thanks to the resilient base design of the human body, functioning in survival mode doesn’t require knowledge of this manual. Human cultures integrated some of the essentials as well, which allowed the development of society as we know it today.

Your curiosity for this manual is living proof of the need for its existence. Maybe a malfunctioning body and failed attempts to “fix it” brought you here. Or the idea “I have a body, I know how it works, let me show you where you’re wrong”. Maybe a bunch of serendipities made it unavoidable to have a closer look.

Even without this manual, you have already managed to make your self home in a human body, and acquired the skills required to access this manual. And many more. Congratulations.

This manual uses a system perspective to explain the human body and some of its subsystems. As mentioned, you already made some important steps in operating a complex entity with amazing features.

Building blocks

Your body consists of trillions of very similar structured units, cells. Each cell has a life of its owns, and goes through the same cycles the whole organism does. We define a unit or entity by having a boundary. A membrane encloses a cell to distinguish between interior and exterior, just like the skin creates the physical border of the human body.

The boundary of carbon based units acts as interface between in- and outside, allowing nutrients to enter the organism and metabolic waste to leave it. This process of exchange and elimination happens nearly automatically while being dependent of the environment.

Once something nutritious has passed through the interface, it needs processing to fuel life. Molecules get broken up and reassembled, assimilating the useful bits and discarding the rest. A bunch of generic molecules transform into very specific ones capable of fulfilling the internal needs of the cell.

The assimilated food can then be converted to power the engine, or integrated to repair faulty components or build new ones. As energy source it provides vitality, as spare part it maintains the purity of the system.

A self-regulating system requires a bit of regulation to facilitate protection. If the membrane can’t react to toxins in its environment, or can’t circulate its essentially needed molecules to the right part of the cell, it can’t survive.

Not everything a cell needs is permanently available, nutrients converted to physical energy will be stored, and can be distributed to achieve the next goal. In an abundant environment, using energy for reproduction makes more sense than moving around. In a toxic environment, getting out of there serve survival best.

Just like any building block of your human body, you need food entering the system, digest it, extract nutrients, integrate and convert them into needed bits, use those bits for vitality and integrity, circulate them around, protect the system, store some energy and choose how to use it.

The subsystems achieving this functionality in a human body appear very complex. Describing any system from an unsuitable perspective makes it look complex, and like fish in water, humans many made some clumsy attempts of understanding their own existence, and how bodies work.

While many people talk about the cycle of life, they often simplify it to “get born, survive, propagate, die”. Life has many rhythms, and understanding the life cycle of a cell has much more relevance to our day to day existence than the life time perspective.

As any decent instruction manual, it starts with a description of the system, important components, features and specifications. This ends the first lesson.