I read years ago that every seven years every cell in the body has been replaced including the bones. Now I gather this may not be quite accurate, but it’s true for most of the body. So that’s the premise for the following playful, if slightly hard-to-explain hypothesis, a theory I’ve read absolutely nowhere else. So with that caveat, another caveat:
I’m just going to lay it out as simply as possible without references and arguments. This is a summary of a hypothesis, if you like, basically with no data to back it up. I hope you find it interesting, though…
Before discussing our birth and death cycle, first we must consider some aspects of what or where all this is happening. Simply put, we live somewhere in time and space, with a multitude of lifeforms and one clear, identifiable constant: everything – every single thing – is in a state of constant motion and, therefore, change. No two things, situations or moments anywhere have been, nor ever will be the same. That means that everything from microscopic to macrocosmic is constantly moving in relation to everything else. One’s position in the universe is constantly changing relative to all stars, planets and galaxies, all of which are part of whatever scenario we are now in. Even on our own domestic level, like in our living room, nothing stays the same from one second to another because all takes place on the spinning planet. And if we get out the microscope, on the quantum level we just see endless rivers and streams of energy flowing around and through all seemingly solid, stable entities, like rocks or tables, things we think never move. They may not move relative to other objects sharing a similar space-time field for now, but within that field, everything is continuously on the march. So that’s the first point: change is a constant. There may be other constants of course, but that’s the only one on offer right now. It is the scaffold upon which the rest of the following hypothesis is built.
Let’s take this change phenomenon as applied to the human body. A quick search threw up the following two diagrams.
Basically, it seems that, varying from one part of the body to another, we are on a continuous regeneration schedule wherein nearly every part is regularly refreshed. The intestine of a 65 year old, for example, is made of cells that are only a year or so old even though its landscape may feature folds and kinks developed slowly over those years, and even though it may contain traces of things that got stuck in there during childhood – like cherry pits and other things we won’t examine!
But even though our cells are constantly changing and nearly all the ones in our bodies right now are only a few years old – many far less according to these charts – clearly we are all ageing and the effects are obvious over time. We have never seen a seventy-year old, for example, who looks like a seventeen-year old. Yes, some people age better than others, but really, if we are straightforward about it, everyone is ageing steadily and this is reflected steadily over time as is our appearance as it changes accordingly. But if we are regenerating regularly, why don’t we regenerate and look the same, why do we look older? Here’s the answer:
When we are born, a certain constellation of phenomena is in place, to each of which we are to a greater or lesser extent connected. Scientists have found plants that are attuned to one particular planet or star via radio waves (See The Secret Life of Plants made in the 1970’s). But on the more human level:
You have your mother, your father, your other relatives including maybe siblings, the hospital or home or field or town or city or street or neighbours, the region, the country, the language, the culture, the decade, the war, the peace, the plenty, the famine, the fruits, the vegetables, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the bees and on and on and on and on. Let us consider a core group of things you are connected with without which you could not have been born, a chain of causation if you will. This could go on to include every single thing in the universe, but let’s keep it simple:
You have your parents who had their parents without whom your parents wouldn’t exist and without your parents you wouldn’t exist. Those are obvious. But also, there is the food they have eaten, where it comes from, where it came from as they were growing up, the farmers who worked to produce them, the animals who gave their lives for their steaks and hamburgers, the soil microbes, the sunshine from the sun, the moonlight from the moon, the waters that nourish all these many creatures (including your parents!), the wind that blows over them and so on – all of which were essential for your existence. Then you have the cultural infrastructure and language and so forth, including deep emotional ties to your family and best friends growing up. No need to repeat everything from the previous paragraph: this is just a different emphasis, how there are things in your immediate ‘matrix of interconnectivity’ without which you most definitely could not have been born. Let’s leave it at that.
So now we get into the growing and ageing business at the heart of this enquiry: as already noted, along with the passage of time comes regular regeneration as old cells are retired and new ones grown to take their place, all using our extraordinary genetic code to provide the templates for each and every one of various billions of individual, custom-made cells for no end of different body areas and functions – way beyond any supercomputer’s capability. Minute after minute, day after day, month after month, year after year. So that is an ongoing process.
But meanwhile, the outer situation is also changing minute by minute, hour by hour, year after year. And those things upon which you are causally dependent both change even to the point of actually ceasing to exist at all. Not just death in terms of parents and relatives and old school friends; but also objects and situations including buildings, streets, nations, languages. And although a scientist might object to this, there are so many emotional ties in the mix as well, some arguably more important than which farmer is growing which particular batch of tomatoes or broccoli any given time you go shopping for some in a supermarket.
Consider the following; you are born in America but at age three move over to France. How many connections cut there? And then you are born with a particular mother and father but there is a death or divorce and many of those original, foundational connections are severed. Or a war comes so even if you stay in the same country with the same parents, not only are many people killed in that war but many move away to different towns never to return; or maybe the country is conquered and new language, new diet, and new ways of being are imposed. How many of your emotional and cultural connections are severed when this happens? If you are old enough, perhaps you have revisited a place where you grew up as a child but haven’t seen in years, and remember just how different everything feels, and also how different you feel looking around at it all. Buildings from before have moved; entire streets have been re-shaped; shops have changed; the food is different; family farms have sold out and instead there are suburbs. Or something still there from the old days now looks old and out of place, or doesn’t feel the same way as you remember. The old lady in the store when you bought candy is long gone and you don’t recognise anyone behind the counter. And they don’t know you. And on and on.
So the hypothesis is simple: as we lose the connections we were born with, especially the ones most vital to our having been born at all, gradually we age and fade. This is why our older bodies, though clearly still belonging to the same person, the same ‘me,’ start to look like different versions of ourselves. At first we grow and strengthen until around 25 to 30 or so, and then things stay more or less the same for a while, albeit always with small, steady changes, but then once the sixties hit, things change more rapidly and you begin to look more and more like an old person, which is sort of like a rubbed-out and faded version of the previous person. And in many cases, this is as true on the inside as it is on the outside.
Why? Because the connections there at your birth, a sort of multi-faceted, multi-dimensional karmically interconnected force field, are dropping away steadily and as they do, vital causes and conditions present at your creation, are slowly fading away. Where at first you had, say, a million such connections, by the time you reach your eighties there are only a hundred thousand, which is still very many, more than enough to sustain life, but not in the same way as you started, for every time an original connection fades away, so does a part of you.
This is why we age the way we do, gradually fading, gradually blurring.
A little family story which proves nothing but resonates: the last time I visited my 92-year old grandfather, one evening he answered the phone, said only a few words, put down the receiver, and then started to cry softly. He was a man born around 1900 and so brought up not to show too much emotion, but when you get very old, often you become more childlike in many ways. I waited until he stopped crying, which wasn’t very long, and then he looked up to explain:
“You know, the only time the phone rings now is for a call like this. But I don’t have to worry about it any more; this is the last one.”
“What do you mean, Grandfather?”
“It only rings when someone calls to tell me that another old friend has died. But that was my last old friend, the last person in this world who I knew when I was growing up, or during my business years. I’ve now outlasted them all. So there won’t be any more such calls.”
Now of course there were many younger people with whom he had connections, like myself, like his son my father, and many others. But in terms of his contemporaries, they were now all gone, including his wife two years earlier. And he was visibly shrinking, barely able to see over the steering wheel of his car which only three years earlier he could easily drive around. And now when driving, he was finding it hard to remember either where he was or where he was going or how to get back home once he got there, even after living in the house for twenty years. One can explain it as lost brain cells, senility, depression or whatever, but also one can consider that this degeneration is occurring simply because he was losing connections with his contemporary reality. One year later he died.
Anyway, that’s my hypothesis. I hope you find it interesting to contemplate. No matter how you get there or why, seriously contemplating change is always worth doing.
So: why do we age the way we do even though our cells are constantly regeneration? This theory postulates that we lose seminal connections and interconnections that were an essential part of our creation and as they change and disappear, so gradually do we.
Postscript: I think this theory is both provocative, reasonable but also unprovable. The scientific method has limitations. A scientific hypothesis must be falsifiable (because either it can be proven true, or such proofs can be shown to be wrong). But this theory involves so many variable that it simply cannot be put to any sort of test at all. Frankly, that is true for pretty much anything in reality, for everything in reality takes place within a living, ever-changing matrix of infinite interconnectivity. So this inability to falsify may indeed be a criticism of this hypothesis, but at the same time it points out that science itself cannot answer every question or explain every phenomenon, and it would be good, frankly, if more scientists and those who write about what scientists regularly throw out at us, were cognisant of this, humble and honest about it, and explained things more forthrightly to all of us on a regular basis. (My little rant at the end!)