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Spokes 4: The Ecology of Humans     (Table of Contents) {Notes}

The body is our instrument to sense and experience the world. This tool's abilities must be honed and maintained to enable full appreciation of life.

Spokes 4 provides of an overview of bodily interfaces with others, both within us and without. It explains how the raw material by which the mind fabricates a sense of reality is amassed. Spokes 4 closes with a primer on the materiality of the good life.


From the chapter on Human Biology:

The human body is a rich ecosystem, a vast collective of microbial life. Over 90% of the cells that a human lugs around are microbial.

At the cellular level, a human is a world unto itself. Our bodies are in symbiotic relationships with microbes to guide development, for digestion, defense against pathogens, and many other functions.


From the chapter on Intelligence Physiology:

The animal intelligence system is distributed. Numerous functions are coherently autonomous, but the whole is greater than the sum of parts in making sense of the world.

Organs and glands have some autonomy in meeting the needs of the body parts they serve. Subconscious processes that alter under stress – such as heart rate and respiration – are regulated for readiness. The digestive system has its own intelligence system in accomplishing tasks essential to nutrient intake.


From the chapter on Health:

The human body is both resilient and fragile. Wounds heal as damaged cells are replaced, though one almost never heals from damage completely.

As part of environmental adaptation through memory, cells commonly replicate defects from wounds. Hence scars on scars.

Alas, most humans take for granted the body's resilience, and pay insufficient heed to its fragility.

Living a healthy lifestyle requires discipline. Ironically, biology works against it.


From the section on Meditation:

Meditation is a practice of profound repose that can lead to a unique state of consciousness: transcendence.

While meditation is suffused with religious history, its practice is so ancient, and natural, that it is likely to have been instrumental in the cognitive evolution of humans.


From the section on Caffeine:

Plants put caffeine in their seeds, leaves and fruit as an insecticide. Flowering plants lace their nectar with a touch of caffeine as a reward memory perk for pollinators.

In humans, caffeine is a stimulant, affecting several neurotransmitters. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance; legal and unregulated throughout the world, with rare exception.

Tea is the stuff of legend in China. The great and powerful Emperor Shénnóng is credited with its discovery.

History is also shaky about coughing up the first coffee consumer. The earliest credible cup of evidence is in the mid-15th century, of Sufi Muslim monks in Yemen brewing their own. From its origination, probably in Africa, the bean traveled to an enthusiastic audience at every stop.


Spokes 4 explains the bodily repository of intelligence. Spokes 5 explores the power of the mind.