This year I had the wonderful and shocking awareness that I’m not only connected to microbes but, in a way, I’m so dependent on them, I sort of am them.
Darwin gave me the understanding that I’m related to the rest of the beasts of the earth, but work on the microbiome released in 2015, impressed me with how much a part of me microbes really are and how much I look to them for my very existence.
It started with the spooky information a short while back, that there are 10 times as many of them in me as there are me in me; at least if you compare the number of their cells in me to the number of mine in me.
From what I read, they’re so specialized that the microbes in the crook of my arm are more like the ones in the crook of your arm than they are like the microbes in my own hand.
Then came the discovery that before long I’ll be able to get a fecal transplant, or maybe simply take a poo pill, to relieve all kinds of disturbances in my body—possibly even obesity, should it ever win the war against my self control.
And there was the equally strange news that I give off a cloud of microbes wherever I go—and if they settle on a surface, someone could take a reading and record a kind of fingerprint of my personal microbiome, after I’d left the scene.
They’re ubiquitous little guys. There are, I believe, more of them pound for pound than any other living thing on earth, and we can’t even see them.
And they’re powerful. One kind of microbe expands when wet, and a pound or two of them could lift a car a couple of feet off the ground. You could change your tire with them.
We’ve planted a flag on a new New World. The last frontier has just changed again, from outer space, to the brain, to an invisible world, without which there would be no world as we know it.