Monday, September 21, 2009

Past Memory: Latent or Other(wise)

If you haven't read Frank Herbert's Dune series you are missing out. Before there was Star Trek, Star Wars, or any of the classic science fiction works, there was Dune. Its story is breathtaking in the scope of its detail, in a manner that can only be described as Toklienesque.

One of the key components of the story is something known as "Other Memory". Essentially, specially trained women can go through a process in which they become aware and cognitive in their bodies to the cellular degree. This permits them to control their body temperature, metabolism, heartbeat, the gender of their children, etc. They are the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit are also known for possessing something known as "Other Memory". Other Memory is essentially access to the memories of all their ancestors. The plot then revolves around the fact that within Other Memory, they can only look through their female ancestors because there is a primal fear that stops them from looking through their male ancestors memories. They had, prior to the book, been desperately trying, for thousands of years, to breed bloodlines and royal houses in order to produce the one who will be able to look not only through the female memories but also the male.

I won't tell you what happens because its an interesting enough story that you should read it for yourself.

After reading the book, I began pondering the concept of Other Memory and came to a startling and somewhat eerie conclusion about Other Memory and the Real World. Before you can even begin to look at it from an real perspective you need to know a little bit about cells.

Cells are basically made of two parts, the cytoplasm and the nucleus. The Cytoplasm contains the various parts of the cell structure that allows it to function and metabolize, such as the mitochondria, which all comes from our maternal ancestors. Your mitochondria is one of your mother's body's mitochondria. Her's was one of her mother's. And so on and so forth all the way back to Eve. So in a sense, you already contain something in every one of your cells that links you through your maternal line.

The other basic part of a cell is the nucleus. The Nucleus is the information that tells your body how to do things and how to function. The nucleus is made up of two chromosomes, which are basically chemicals bonded together to form long strings of information. Women have two chromosomes, both of them X, but men have one X and one Y chromosome. The Y chromosome, like the mitochondria, is one of your father's, which once more, traces back through your paternal line all the way to Adam. Women have one X chromosome from their father, but his X chromosome comes from his mother, and there the line usually ends.

What this means is that in ever single cell of your body, you have something that has literally been passed down THROUGH all of your ancestors. Each cell is a genetic heirloom.

Another basic idea in cellular biology is that all cells are pretty much exactly the same, they have just been altered by genetic signals to do different jobs. Before they receive the chemical signals, they are stem cells. They can be signaled to grow into any type of cell, even into tissues or organs. All from one cell. Theoretically, because they still contain all their original parts, these cells could be reversed engineered to turn back into stem cells. What this all means is that all cells are actually identical, whether they are hair follicle cells, skin cells, iris cells, or bone marrow cells.

This means that all cells in your body are identical to your original cell, that lonely cell from back when you were just one cell big. And you grew from that one cell. Meaning all the information needed to make your body was contained in that one cell. And that also means that all the information used to make your body is contained in all your body's other cells.

Take a moment to catch your breath. We're almost through. This is where it all ties together. But before it makes any sense how this ties to Other Memory in real life, we have to talk about your muscles.

Your muscle cells have memory. If you do any kind of running or weight training, you strain your muscle cells and build them up so they become stronger to a certain point, say till you can benchpress 150 lbs. If you were to stop and then start over again, you would regain your previous mark (being able to benchpress 150 lbs) much faster then before, and once your surpassed your previous mark you would slow down again to the previous speed of muscle gain. Its the scientific phenomenon known as muscle memory. Your muscle cells remember how to tear and regenerate up to how far they learned to do it. Your muscle cells have memories of your actions.

Remember, all cells are identical. Therefore, all cells have memories of your actions.

Your brain also has a very similar cellular phenomenon. Memory itself, as we know it. For years, scientist thought that memory was contained in ONE part of the brain. But through the years they have worked with patients who have lost chunks of their brains, and no matter which part of the brain is removed, while cognition is retained, memories are still present. This indicates that memories are not linked to a certain portion of the organ, but rather to the tissue of the brain itself, to the very cells. Scientist have no way of explaining it other than ALL YOUR MEMORIES are retained in your cells, not your brain.

This startling discovery then ties eerily with the earlier cellular fact, that you have your ancestor's cell parts in your own cells. If memory is locked in the cell, not the brain, then your ancestor's memories are actually within your own cells. That is a cool, and slightly creepy thought.

Now, I'm not saying that this means you can communicate with your dead grandmother through your toenail. Or that you can watch your entire family history like a DVD just by focusing your mind (or in the case of Dune, drinking a special poison and then using your body to convert it to a harmless substance.) But what it does mean is that that latent memory within all of our cells may serve to explain some of the reasons behind who we are and what we do, as well as phenomenons such as deja vu. Science is still working hard to unlock the mysteries inside each of our cells, and it will be interesting to see what they find behind that door.

In the meantime, here is an example of what I would call the influence of the latent or past memory in my own life. Before I was 2 years old, my mom and dad were divorced, and I grew up without really knowing much about my dad. We moved to another country and I grew up, forming a love for astronomy. This is weird because there was never anyone in my family who practiced astronomy or was in any way, shape, or form influencing me or introducing me to it. I just naturally was drawn to it for some inexplicable reason. Only to find out that my dad, whom I had basically no contact with for a decade and a half, also has a love for astronomy. Now, this may be pure coincidence. All I know is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and it is the glory of God to hide things and the honor of kings to seek them out.

1 comment:

  1. all learning aside...that was actually pretty cool!