We do tend to take the vehicle we ride about in, very much for granted don’t we! Oh, I don’t mean the Ford, VW, Holden or your motor cycle, or even the local bus, I mean one of the most complicated and powerful machines any of us will ever own, no matter how far scientists and engineers can take us into the future, and it costs us nothing apart from the hard work of looking after it.
I’m talking about the human body of course, a piece of apparatus that took billions of years to develop to its present state of perfection, so that it now performs most of the functions to keep us alive and mobile without any intrusion on our part at all. At its centre is the wonderful computer we keep stuffed inside our heads, which does most of the work of course, as powerful a lump of electronic wizardry as you’d find anywhere in Silicon Valley – in fact I would be prepared to bet that if all the computing power developed in that wonderful bit of countryside was put together, it would still not equal the complexity and power of one human brain!
Just think for a moment of all the various functions our bodies handle most of them going on at the same time and without any help from us. There’s the pump that pushes life maintaining blood around our bodies, pumping harder or softer depending on the necessities of running, walking or lying down asleep. Then there’s the job of transferring oxygen from the air into the red corpuscles of the pumped blood by means of a transferring system we call our lungs. Add to that the way our kidneys and liver filter the blood of all impurities, removing them from our bodies mainly in the form of urine. At the same time that all this is going on our brain is also operating every one of the millions of muscles we have about the structure, a strong pull here, a gentle tweak there, to stop us, among other things, from falling over in the very top heavy tower we inhabit.
Another very clever trick our brain accomplishes without any help from us is the way it manages to keep our eyes focussed on a still object, no matter how quickly we move our heads about – imagine the control that takes, over the tiny muscles that control the movement of our eyes!
And while all these things are going on the brain is also checking and removing dead cells from all over us, so that apparently we are completely new individuals about every eight years, (except for our teeth), it’s also manufacturing the host of hormones necessary to our wellbeing, as well as saliva in our mouths and digestive juices to dissolve the food we eat. And don’t forget the hair and nails it builds at the rate of about a quarter of a millimetre a day, the sweat it produces when our temperatures get a bit on the high side, and the rubbish it removes from our bodies, by daily methods we don’t need to go into here!
On top of all this unconscious stuff, our brain is also responding to the conscious instructions we give it all the time – move my legs so I can walk please, guide my hand so that this pen will write something readable, move my jaw up and down until the food in my mouth is small enough to swallow, adjust my vocal chords so that air passing over them produces sound, (and make that sound legible words!).
And all of the details I’ve described above are just a tiny part of what our brains are doing, twenty four hours a day – yes, it works just as hard when we are asleep as it does when we are awake. A wonderful machine indeed and one we should all be looking after with the utmost care; the better the care, the healthier the machine, the longer the ride!