Thursday, September 3, 2020

What makes us holobionts: Touching each other as a gift of love.

Image from Nella Turkki's dance project, "I, Holobiont"

 

Touching each other is part of what makes us fellow holobionts, part of the greater holobiont that we call the Ecosphere or, sometimes "Gaia." In his book, "Thank God for Evolution," Michael Dowd doesn't mention the term "holobiont," but he gives us a poignant description of what it means touching each other, starting at page 231

The Furry Li'l Mammal in each of us craves touch and tenderness. Without touch, a baby dies, the human heart aches, the soul withers. Touch is not only a biological need; it is a profoundly elegant and essential form of communication. . . . For millions of years our mammalian ancestors were reassured by parents or comrades not through words but through touch. For 99.9 percent of our mammalian journey, there were no words. The need for touch begins for mammals at birth and continues until we die. . . . There is healing in touch, too. Because tender touch communicates love and care, it triggers metabolic and chemical changes in the body that assist healing. Touching also stimulates the production of endorphines -- natural body hormones that control pain and embrace our sense of well-being.

And, let me add, touching each other means exchanging our skin microbiota: it means exchanging the skills that the small creatures that populate our skin use to protect us from harmful creatures and chemicals. Touching each other is a reciprocal gift, it is a gift of love.

Onward, fellow holobionts!  

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Below, you see the front cover of Michael Dowd's beautiful book "Thank God for evolution" (2008). But if you want to know why exactly ancient Christians used a fish as a symbol of their faith, you have to read the book by myself and Ilaria Perissi "The Empty Sea" (in Italian), or wait for the English version to be published by Springer (should be soon)

 

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)