So Life Begins At…?

I learned some things the other day. I strongly encourage everyone to learn new things (or new depths of old things) – especially things that challenge your own perception – as often as they can stand it!

I learned that there is no clear definition for clinical death. Life – and therefore its cessation – is something that is held sacred to nearly all of us (I’m leaving room here for you nihilists and for the psychologically ill), yet is not well defined. We know when something is “alive” or “dead,” but only sort of. I learned that the method used to declare death is up to the discretion of the physician doing the declaring. Someone can be declared dead when their heart stops, but sometimes the heart – and the person in question with it – is revived and this person now has a history of having once been “dead.” Or someone can be declared dead when they’ve stopped emitting brainwaves, but we all know about those “vegetables” who are brain dead, yet still…alive? And there have been quite a few folks who have recovered from brain death:   So there you have it: doctors can decide for themselves when to declare death, but it’s still as vague and questionable as ever.

I learned more about pregnancy and fetal development. The heart begins to beat at day 21, which is the third week of pregnancy. By day 30, the mother’s blood is separate from the child’s. In the 8th week, brainwaves can detected and measured, but the prefrontal cortex (which is associated with thought) does not develop until the 24th week.

So here we can see why it is that “life” is so very difficult to define. This gets especially interesting when considering the entity called a “chimera.”

A chimera is two beings – two distinct sets of DNA – existing in a single body. This happens with the merging of fraternal twins. Normally, fraternal twins come into existence when two separate eggs are both fertilized and implant within the womb and two babies are born. But occasionally, two separate eggs are fertilized, but instead of both implanting, they merge together into a single zygote before implantation and only one baby is born. This baby is quite literally its own twin. The clearest visible example of this is the famous cat chimera, Venus.

So let’s play with the notion of souls and chimera; what happens (or what are the implications) in such a state? Is it two souls living in one body? Are the souls blended, just like the body? Was there only one soul to begin with, and that’s why it had to snap back together?

These are complicated questions, indeed. We may never know the answers this side of eternity.


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