Nothingness

 

Beware of gnawing
The ideogram of nothingness:
Your teeth will crack.
Swallow it whole,
And you’ve a treasure
Beyond the hope
Of Buddha and the Mind.

— Karasumaru-Mitsuhiro (1579–1638)

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Questions

The most important questions don’t seem to have ready answers, but the questions themselves have healing power when they are shared. An answer is an invitation to stop thinking about something, to stop wondering. Life has no such stopping places. Life is a process whose every event is connected to the moment that just went by. An unanswered question is a fine traveling companion. It sharpens your eye for the road.
— Rachel Naomi Remen

What are people for?

There are cultures in which people have existential angst, and cultures in which they don’t.

There are cultures in which death is regarded as an ultimate tragedy and cultures in which death is regarded as part of the cycle of life.

There are cultures in which suicide rates are negligible, though feelings of terror about life’s end are absent.

There are cultures in which it seems natural that some individuals are better than others, and cultures in which everyone has a valued place.

We co-create our culture (in some cultures with a higher participation rate than others).  What kind of culture would you like to live in?

Perhaps before we can address that question, it is useful to get outside our own culture, to live in another part of the world or to become intimate with someone whose values, beliefs, and way of being in the world are very different from your own.

— Josh Mitteldorf

Communal bacteria

Bacteria have an inaccurate public image as isolated cells twiddling about on microscope slides. The more that scientists learn about bacteria, however, the more they see that this hermitlike reputation is deeply misleading, like trying to understand human behavior without referring to cities, laws or speech. “People were treating bacteria as … solitary organisms that live by themselves,” said Gürol Süel, a biophysicist at the University of California, San Diego. “In fact, most bacteria in nature appear to reside in very dense communities.”

The preferred form of community for bacteria seems to be the biofilm. On teeth, on pipes, on rocks and in the ocean, microbes glom together by the billions and build sticky organic superstructures around themselves. In these films, bacteria can divide labor: Exterior cells may fend off threats, while interior cells produce food. And like humans, who have succeeded in large part by cooperating with each other, bacteria thrive in communities. Antibiotics that easily dispatch free-swimming cells often prove useless against the same types of cells when they’ve hunkered down in a film.

As in all communities, cohabiting bacteria need ways to exchange messages. Biologists have known for decades that bacteria can use chemical cues to coordinate their behavior. The best-known example, elucidated by Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University and others, is quorum sensing, a process by which bacteria extrude signaling molecules until a high enough concentration triggers cells to form a biofilm or initiate some other collective behavior.

But Süel and other scientists are now finding that bacteria in biofilms can also talk to one another electrically. Biofilms appear to use electrically charged particles to organize and synchronize activities across large expanses. This electrical exchange has proved so powerful that biofilms even use it to recruit new bacteria from their surroundings, and to negotiate with neighboring biofilms for their mutual well-being.

This Quanta article describes waves of ion release traveling through biofilms, as through neurons.  The mechanisms of biofilms and brains are so close that it seems likely that biofilms were the fore-runners of brains, perhaps billions of years earlier.abundant-food-biofilms