Genius Bacteria

In her TED talk about bacteria, Bonnie Bessler wove a compelling story about the ways in which bacteria communicate with “chemical words.” Referring to bacteria that generate bioluminescence, she noted that the light created is formed by collective power—the light shines only when the bacteria gather in a group and “vote,” through quorum sensing, to act in unison.

Besser’s presentation could be seen as an example of inner science—the science of understanding ourselves and our dynamic relationships with others and the rest of life around us (even life that’s invisible to us without a microscope!). It therefore offers us parallels to consider in our human ability to consciously create the harmonious conditions needed to manifest lasting happiness and peace—the freedom we’re all seeking.

Just as bacteria communicate through chemical “words,” we influence one another through our nervous systems, by mirroring our emotions and behaviors. Without having come across any science confirming so, we would know this to be true: we’ve all experienced how our moods can change in the presence of others. Someone walks into the room and without them saying a word, we can register that person’s emotional state. We might even be able to feel it in our own bodies.

Through our own ways of being and acting in the world—through the determined and courageous transformation of our less-than-desirable conditioning—we create the healthy soils in which the seeds of beautiful changes sprout. Through the conscious work of nurturing compassion and empathy, we make it safe for others to drop their fears and to find their faith in humanity. This work, however small or big a scale, is really important: Fear and distrust interfere with us coming together, like bacteria, and realizing our positive powers.

What if we simply acted like bacteria, setting aside our surface-level differences and wholeheartedly recognizing our inner similarities?

Share your thoughts.