What if our world were a gigantic digestive system? What a random, odd, and somewhat icky question.
So, what the heck do I mean by “Global Guts”? Well, for the last decade or so I have had some nasty issues with my guts (Crohn’s disease) and I’ve since learned the benefits of maintaining a higher ratio of good vs. bad bacteria. So, the metaphor is simple: ideas are like bacteria that spread in our guts. The good ideas, or stories, are like bacteria in a battle to achieve the better health of the whole, our bodies, or to extend the metaphor, our planet. You see, stories shape our behavior. If our minds are full of a bunch of bunk, then we’re prone to act like complete fools. Even worse, toxic ideas can thrive in emotionally disturbed conditions, potentially turning us into tyrants.
In another sense, Global Guts is about channeling some of my ‘gut feelings’ toward the mysterious object of my greatest affection, the planet. I love this world we live upon and it pains me to see my favorite species, humans, ill at ease and powerless to learn what would restore their health. We can act more intelligently as interconnected individuals, parts of a vast global system capable of digesting the most difficult events.
You do realize that there have been, and continue to be, many painful events (bad meal deals) that are extremely difficult for our species to digest. There are some stories that disturb and damage our guts, so we fail to cope. These story-like bacteria leave us in a constipated stupor. It is critical that the thoughts in our minds evolve with the circumstances. We may strive to be rational, but if we’re completely uninformed or freaked out by whatever happened, we end up in denial because our brains can only process so much.
Guts can also symbolize courage. Clearly we need courage to digest challenging realities, but it takes an awareness of courageous stories that inspire us to act. We need healthy bacteria in our guts to help fend off the bad ones. Sometimes it seems that our interconnected experiences are like individual intestines, which if combined could digest the complexities that lead to the shocks we’d rather avoid. With the help of trillions of bacteria, some representing good stories while many represent destructive ones, our metaphorical guts can become entangled. Together we can nurture a nutrient-rich home for the exchange of better stories, as well as learn to boost our immunity against the bad bacteria and viruses of utmost cruelty.
I liked the Scientific American article which referred to our gut bacteria as “ancient allies” due to their long evolutionary role within our bodies. Given the metaphor, I’m curious if there are stories packed with ideas and values that we’ve long held ‘essential’ as humans. Which stories can steer us through these challenging times? Maybe we should build up our digestive immunity with insights from the masters, don’t you think? In another article by ScienceDaily, a team of scientists from around the globe found how gut bacteria seems to influence mammalian brain development and adult behavior. Given my fancy for H.G. Wells’ notion of the World Brain I’d like to think we can harness the power of value-laden stories lingering in our collective guts to digest any challenge.
Another way of thinking about bacteria-like stories are ‘memes‘. Memes were first described by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 when he said, “The computers in which memes live are human brains”. He was spinning off the metaphor of genes and in 1989 he revised the idea to include the Internet, which he said was “the perfect milieu for self-replicating programs to flourish.” So, bacteria are like memes, in a way, but bacteria have their own unique genomes and the ones in our guts are either symbiotic allies, or dangerous cohorts of memes.
Our stories, for better or worse, have a symbiotic relationship with our conscious minds, affecting our behavior, especially when they string our actions together into broad societal narratives. The Global Guts are like a vast superorganism of living stories that are brought to life by the World Wide Web, influencing our collective consciousness so that certain values can take hold in shared narratives that we intelligently enact, or fail to understand. With our intestines interwoven with the stories that make sense of who we are and where we’ve been as a species, we’ll be a lot better off. We’ll recognize that we have a lot more in common than we actually think, thus forming narratives that nurture our Global Guts.
I hope that the Global Guts metaphor helps you make a little more sense of what I’m blabbering on about. This is my personal blog, after all, and it serves as a place to play around with some of these ideas. If ever you hear me or my friends speaking of Nemetics, understand that it’s a broader variant of Memetics, a better and radically different thing. It comes with its own unique models that can help us see the interrelationships between the stories and systems that affect our lives. Personally, I find it an enriching way to think about the world. To learn more about Nemetics, all it takes is a web search. To learn more about Global Guts, feel free to read my blog with an open mind.