I'm in the middle of reading this amazing book called: 'The Language of Life: How Cells Communicate in Health and Disease.'
My biology teacher would be so proud of me. The last real science I learned was when I was 14, and we'd just got up to the part where they give you the eyeball of a bull to dissect.
To say I didn't enjoy the experience would be quite the understatement - and now I'm reading books talking about WnT and Sonic Hedgehog and chemotaxis proteins. (Let's be clear that reading is not necessarily the same as understanding what the heck it's talking about…)
But I'm understanding enough to share the following amazing ideas with you:
Even the lowliest single-celled cell 'talks'. The language it uses is chemicals - it squirts out a bit of this stuff for 'turn left' and a bit of that stuff for 'stop here and eat lunch' - but cells, amoebas, micro-organisms all talk.
And when you shift up gears to the incredibly complicated mechanism that is the human body, the conversations get more and more diverse and intellectual. For example, hormones are one of the ways G-d created for the different parts of the human body to 'talk' to other parts.
That's how you can get a bad attack of PMS and instantly go for your husband's jugular. We all take it for granted that we want to yell at them, and a split second later that's what we're doing.
But if not for the chemical 'signalling system' that's been ingeniously set up in our bodies via our hormones, it could take days, weeks, or even months for the order to 'attack your poor spouse' to actually make its way down from our brain to our mouth.
Jews know from our sources that G-d 'spoke' the world into being with His 10 utterances. We also know how crucially powerful and potentially holy or destructive the power of speech actually is. What's amazing to me, is that even at the most basic level of biological life, G-d's conversation is continuing.
This has repercussions for a number of reasons: ill health comes about when a message gets 'misread' or misheard, or misspoken, leading to cells doing something destructive and 'sick-making'.
Good communication is key for life and health to continue, even at this most simple level of being. So imagine, how important good communication becomes when you start to deal with a sentient creation like a human being.
It's not for nothing that our Sages taught that 'Life and death are both in the tongue'.
If one mis-squirted chemical sentence can end in physical illness and even death, imagine what one actual sentence, with real words, can do to build or destroy our relationships, our families or our communities.
It's a scary thought.
But G-d in His wisdom has put a number of checks and balances in place, that means that even the most 'dangerous' conversations can usually be contained and turned around, as soon as the cells involved recognise that they're actually talking gibberish, or saying something bad.
In humans, I guess this equates to teshuva, when we suddenly wake up and realise that bad-mouthing the neighbours, or screaming at the kids, or criticising our spouse is probably not the most helpful thing to be doing with our speech.
G-d gives us, and our cells, so much leeway, to identify our destructive communication patterns, and to replace them with much more wholesome, healthy sentiments.
A final idea from the book: when cells stop communicating - when other cells ignore them, or give them the cold shoulder - they literally commit suicide. Cells are very sociable things.
I think of how all our face-to-face conversations are being replaced by email, or txt messages, or Facebook, and I shudder. Because while all these things look like communication, at least on some level, they're actually monologues, not dialogues.
And monologues really only work in theatre, not in real life.
So let me give us all a blessing, that G-d should continue to talk to Us, and we should try to talk to Him; that we should continue to dialogue with our loved ones, and not just get stuck in beautifully-crafted but energetically dead 'electronic set pieces'; and that our cells should continue to whisper words of good health, happiness and peace to each other.
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