We have already heard that microscopic organisms outnumber us in a global scale and live in and on our bodies in places so private it would make us blanch if we could see them languishing there. This sure knowledge has made it easy for me to willfully ignore every new and breathless description that urges me to marvel at how we teem with unseen life.
I simply can’t afford to comprehend it.
True awareness of exactly how many tiny monsters I harbor would trigger an “Ish Factor” reaction that would be personally catastrophic. And yet it appears we are bound to know, regardless. Researchers now say the number of hangers-on is something on the order of 100 Trillion.
The good news – it’s a functioning community. Everyone hosts a distinct “microbiome” that may help determine what diseases you get and which ones you’re able to fight off. Be kind to your friendly neighborhood bacteria – they surround you. Maybe that’s the real “cloud of witnesses” following us around in Hebrews 12:1 – not dead predecessors, but very alive hitchhikers.
But these are the lines that stood out for me inside a New York Times article:
Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are made mostly of microbes. From the standpoint of our microbiome, he added, “we may just serve as packaging.”
“Humans”, said Dr. David Relman, a Stanford microbiologist, are like coral, “an assemblage of life-forms living together.”
I have never thought of myself as a walking sack of microbial congregations, and certainly not as a coral reef.
I guess when Simon and Garfunkel sang “I Am A Rock”, they were right about being an island and a fortress. But they were wrong about being alone.
How do you get along with the residents of your microbiome?