There is no thing that we do on a macro scale that is not echoed on many other scales, including micro. Like ripples in a pond the relationships that define biological systems and subsystem are characterized by recurring echoes of self similarity and a blend of dissonance. This blend of tradition and flexibility – of dedication to ritual and diversity – is what composes the adaptive range of behaviors we must express in proportion to the opportunities and challenges presented by way of a variable environment – and this is also what characterizes this magnificent symphony of structure we call biology. The capacity to use smell as a means of communicating and understanding that environment as well as negotiating it effectively is no exception to this rule. Here’s a closer look:
We sometimes confuse awareness with the meager and often inaccurate image that is conjured up by the constellation of verbal labels we have swimming around in our head; these things we use to produce a basic map of the world as well as concepts of self other truth and justice and so on… our words produce an image limited by their inability to serve as an accurate measure of the totality of what we experience, not just by a little, but by a huge margin.
Our verbal awareness is responsible for a certain portion of what we know, but this is by no means the only type of awareness, and is in fact a tiny sliver of it. In the midst of this misunderstanding we might miss the many things we know that we have no label for, these are often the drivers of our relationships in ways that our abstract symbols cannot identify, much less understand. Here’s a glimpse into some of the deeper waters of understanding that is embedded in our being.
When it comes to accomplishing tasks in the face of various forms of adversity and an environment that would need to be cultivated or persuaded to move toward a specific goal, one way of breaking down the various strategies that are possible to do this is a concept called destinationist. A destinationist strategy accepts that the current state of affairs is not desirable and that change is necessary, but rather than being a determinist, where the strategy appears to be “all or none”, where arms are flapped or folded folded and scowls are formed and baying at the moon over the current circumstances – how wrong everybody is and how the world is not right is the de facto strategy, the destinationist uses a strategy which accepts the reality of the current landscape, and attempts to move in the correct direction using realistic doable steps, perhaps not knowing if full success is possible or warranted. Nature appears to have this destinationist philosophy as it attempts to do things to move in a certain direction, even though the current solution may not be perfect. One example it the following: “while having diarrhoea might be a nightmare, not having it could be an even worse fate.”
Here is an article detailing how the body uses a destinationist strategy to deal with stomach issues that comes with some pain, but is best given the overall picture.
The same way we have an internal thought life and from that wider field of opportunity we decide what to say or not say, our cells also have these same processes that determine what to leave in and what to leave out. Here is a video outlining the process by which these decisions on what get expressed or silenced in a cell get made.
Our assumptions form a lens that renders a convincing image in our mind. The lens can then begin to calibrate the relative value of evidence we see so that it reinforces the assumption. Because the lens produces certainty, but not necessarily accuracy, we may end up in a convincing cocoon of certainty even though it is potentially false. The problem with deception is, if we are deceived, by definition we are unaware of it. Many of us appear to confuse the certainty rendered through the lens built on our assumptions with the truth. The real tragedy is when we use that certainty to dismiss, disregard and even dehumanize each other… If we ride on the winds of our false certainty to diminish each other, we also become the the authors of our own poverty.
To know oneself is critical to being able to navigate with any kind of intention in life. Without an appropriate knowledge of self we run the risk of drifting on the currents of happenstance, reflecting what we were exposed to while recording and reporting it without a meaningful and effective voice. Just as important as knowing oneself is knowing the enemy. Understanding the people and things that can diminish or destroy us is important to effectively navigate the hazards that are in the relationship climate we live in.
Among the hazards are social predators. Those that employ destructive and exploitative strategies to seize whatever you might have to offer and repurpose it to serve themselves at your expense – to take without offering any real reciprocal value or having a mutual stake in your success as well as their own. Social predators are pirates, not farmers that cultivate something of nourishing value that strengthens the whole community. They are destructive agents that, if not sufficiently defended against, corrupt and diminish the ability for nourishing behaviors to take place – behaviors that bind together, support and strengthen a sustainable social community. Among the things predators misuse to service destructive ends are authority, reciprocity, liking, scarcity, social proof, and our tendency toward commitment and consistency. Here’s a deeper look at a these particular strategies employed by social predators to invite you to a meal… as part of their menu:
The fight or flight response, that section of our biological expression that leaps into action to deal with a perceived threats is mirrored in many behavioral systems throughout the biological body of life. From the heat shock proteins that leap into defense activities within a cell that perceives threat, to the immune system which leaps into action when it sees a potentially harmful agent. The heartbeat of biology are systems built on collections of nourishing relationships that also have the capacity to defend that nourishing community against antagonists.
The article below is an example of how the brain of a stickleback fish produces alterations in gene expression up to two hours after it interacts with an intruder. This illustration of the way the brain attends to perceived threat is also an illustration of what the emotionally powerful events like the unknown and the traumatic do to affect our own experience of life. It may explain why they are so effective at etching themselves into a prominent place in the lens through which we see ourselves and the world from that defining event, forward – and why these seeds of identity can be a source of wisdom to help us navigate future hazards more effectively, or become a source of cyclic torture if they are not calibrated to be proportional to the current events we will encounter. In other words, we can become prisoners of episodes from our past because of the powerful way they can shape what we see from that point forward.
The level of depth perception coupled with the predatory behavioral inclination of cancer produces a number of intricate strategies to advance its agenda to make itself the center and overtake the carrying capacity of the community of cells in which it lives, destroying the community (and itself) in the process. Cancer is like a seditious saboteur bent on destroying a nourishing sustainable system of relationships. This predatory antagonistic bias toward the relational harmony an organism depends on and the concerted effort of that community of harmonic relationships to defend against these destructive agents is a clear illustration of the battlefront between order and chaos we see expressed throughout nature.
One of the more intricate destructive strategies employed by cancer is to cause a kind of black flag type operation, where it tricks healthy cells into producing false viral signals so that they look like they are the problem to the immune system. This diverts the healthy system’s immune response resources toward a false problem redirecting energy that might otherwise be directed at the cancer, enabling it to carry on its work of seizing more resources for itself at the expense of the larger biological community.
Here is an article detailing this process:
Researchers Now Know How Cancers Force Other Cells to Make Fake Viruses
Plants have any number of methods to communicate both internally and externally in order to keep themselves informed and respond to their environment and developmental needs. They use this vast array of capacities to negotiate their way toward maturity and reproduction among other things. As it turns out, plants have a rich social life. They are for instance able to forge relationships with various benefactors in the plant and animal kingdoms and coordinate their effort, including the recruitment of other creatures, to ward off antagonists. They sense, and think without the means of a brain as we understand brains, yet they have the capacity to perceive and respond on remarkable levels which we are only beginning to understand. Here is a documentary on some of the recently discovered attributes of plants.
Today’s wake up word is Myelin: It is a fatty insulator that surrounds the axon of some kinds of nerve cells allowing signals to pass through preferentially over those channels. When we learn motor skills like an instrument, our body responds by mylenating certain channels to make that happen easier over time. This is why we become competent at tasks. Myelin is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Myelin is the reason habits form (including what we call our identity and character in many respects) and why patterns of behavior are harder to break once established whether in an individual or a culture, and why these rituals may serve us or imprison us depending on how they are wired and how that wiring serves to help us navigate the variables of our environment.