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The physical bodies that you’re using to sit on these chairs, for example, aren’t the ones that you walked in with a little while ago. Even with one breath you take in 10 to the power of 22 atoms. An astronomical amount of raw material that ends up as your heart, brain and kidney cells, your neurons, your DNA. With each breath you breathe out 10 to the power of 22 atoms. It’s an astronomical amount of raw materials that is coming from every bit of your body. You are literally breathing out bits and pieces of your brain tissue and heart and kidney. Actually, technically speaking, we are intimately sharing our organs with each other all the time.
If you do radioactive isotope studies which have been done very elegantly, you can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that you replace 98% of all the atoms in your body in less than one year. You make a new liver every 6 weeks, a new skin once a month, a new stomach lining every 5 days, a new skeleton - it seems so hard and solid, but the skeleton you have now you didn’t have three months ago. Even the brain cells that you think with as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, as those basic elements, they weren’t there one year ago. And the DNA that holds memories of millions of years of evolutionary time, in fact hundreds of millions of years; the actual raw material of it comes and goes every six weeks. Those atoms drift in and out like migratory birds every six weeks.
And if you want to be a real stickler about it and account for the last atom and every little sinew and collagen and cartilage, then in less than two and a half years you replace every atom in your body down to the last single atom. So if you think you are your material body then you certainly have a dilemma. Which one are you talking about? The 1991 model is not the same as the 1990 model or even the one from a few months ago.
Inspired by Dr. Jay.
“ A man can’t know where he is on the Earth except in relation to the moon or a star. Astronomy comes first; land maps follow because of it. Just the opposite of what you’d expect. If you think about it long enough, it will turn your brain inside-out. A here exists only in relation to a there, not the other way around. There’s this only because there’s that; if we don’t look up, we’ll never know what’s down. Think of it, boy. We find ourselves only by looking to what we’re not. You can’t put your feet on the ground until you’ve touched the sky.
Paul Auster, American author known for works blending absurdism, existentialism, crime fiction and the search for identity and personal meaning, Effing in Moon Palace, Viking Press, 1989
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