Toward a Biology Worthy of Life > The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings > Brief excerpt
A project by Stephen L. Talbott

Life as flow

The typical living cell is 75-80 percent water. Its primary activities are flows. Even the parts we have been taught (by photographs and textbook drawings) to take as fixed structures are in fact caught up in flows. They themselves are in one degree or another flows. For example, the filamentous cytoskeleton that helps give the cell a degree of rigidity and maintain its form “is not a fixed structure whose function can be understood in isolation. Rather, it is a dynamic and adaptive structure whose component polymers and regulatory proteins are in constant flux” (Fletcher and Mullins 2010).

Moreover, the organism’s relatively fixed structures are themselves the result of flow, not the ultimate cause of it. My favorite example of this comes from my Nature Institute colleague, Craig Holdrege:

Before the heart [in the human fetus] has developed walls (septa) separating the four chambers from each other, the blood already flows in two distinct “currents” through the heart. The blood flowing through the right and left sides of the heart do not mix, but stream and loop by each other, just as two currents in a body of water. In the “still water zone” between the two currents, the septum dividing the two chambers forms. Thus the movement of the blood gives the parameters for the inner differentiation of the heart, just as the looping heart redirects the flow of blood. (Holdrege 2002, p. 12)

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