Corks and Oaks

An acorn holds the potential of a giant oak tree within its small container. It only takes the right conditions for the acorn to activate its amazing powers to create something far greater than itself, seemingly out of nothing. How does it do that?

Let’s make this personal: We all started from a single fertilized egg cell, which rapidly divided and divided and divided, making multiple copies of itself. At an exact point in the cycle, the cells start to differentiate – for example, some become muscle cells, some become skin cells, and some become bone cells. What causes a cell to “decide” to become muscle, skin, or bone? The short answer is DNA.

However, there are many questions that require a much longer answer to that initial question. All cells have the same DNA. Why does one cell access its DNA and morph into a muscle cell? Does one cell “decide” and the surrounding cells “follow”; or does each cell “decide” on its own? What if one cell “decides” to be a muscle cell, the cell to its left “decides” to be a skin cell, and the cell to its right “decides” to be a bone cell? What is the mechanism that joins muscle cells into a functioning heart? What starts the heart beating? What gives this conglomeration of cells “life”? Where does our self-awareness enter this cell grouping?

Don’t worry; this won’t become a biology course, or even a lecture. In fact, I’m not even going to try to answer the questions. I just wanted to introduce the concept of the complexity and synchronicity of the development of oak trees and the human body. Or, as it was so elegantly stated in that classic opera, “Hair”:

“What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel.”  William Shakespeare, Hamlet

OK, for those who really want a scientific “answer” – which doesn’t really answer or even address most of the questions above:

“Gene regulation switches genes on and off, and so controls cell differentiation, and morphogenesis.  Wikipedia

Morphogenesis (meaning the “beginning of shape”), is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape.”  Wikipedia

Some points to ponder for your day.

What about Corks, you ask?

Our bodies are all created in the same structure, as stated above. However, when each body enters the “world,” it is subjected to its own unique experiences, which shape its life far into the future.

Hold a cork underwater and then release it. The cork pops up out of the water, and then bobs along on top, riding the waves. This is the same as holding down and suppressing a child’s spirit, hopes, and dreams, which, hopefully, are mercifully released with such joy later. The child, or adult child, can then handle the day-to-day waves of life, like a cork riding the waves.

My hope for you is that your cork bobs and rides the waves of uncertainty and joy in your life.



P.S.: Yes, I hear you, acorn-science seekers. Here’s the scientific explanation of acorn-to-oak, which only answers, “What happens,” not “how it happens.”

Evolution of an oak tree, by Beth Botts, Chicago Tribune:

  • “As the acorn grew and swelled, the scales enveloping it formed a cap atop a hard-shelled nut containing the embryo of a potential oak tree. The embryo consisted of two structures, called cotyledons, which store food to get the sprout started.”
  • “When the acorn was ripe, it fell.”
  • “Lucky acorns immediately claimed their territory by sending an embryonic root down into the soil to anchor the plant and search for water.”
  • “Once spring comes and the soil is moist, the cotyledons will swell with water and crack open the acorn shell. Then the acorn will send up a young shoot”
  • “The cotyledons will provide food to the young seedling for many months, even after it has developed true leaves, equipped with green chlorophyll to gather sunlight and produce food.”
  • “As the tiny tree grows larger and stronger, the cotyledons will fall away.”

You are welcome, acorn-science seekers. Now, how does that green chlorophyll in the leaves turn sunlight into food? Tests have shown that oak trees don’t actually gobble up dirt as food, so how does the oak tree grow with only sunlight and water? Ah, the wonders of nature.

My hope for you is that you marvel at the wonders of nature, and never lose your childlike enthusiasm.