Community is a powerful lens through which to see the biosphere. Every being in the incredible flowering of life that Earth supports belongs to a single community related by common descent and the sharing and transfer of nutrients and energy. The living biosphere as a whole is so large as to almost paralyze the imagination. The life community is a web of organisms, every node where strands cross a living being, each strand the connections that reveal the mutual dependence on other lives that life requires.
When I walk outdoors and look around, I see the "blooming, buzzing confusion" that William James spoke of a hundred years ago. It is an astonishment that never pales if you can find ways to keep your eyes clear of the filters that culture and experience keep growing. I feast my senses on green leaves and brown barks, black barks, and their manifold textures call to my fingertips.
I walk to the pond out back, scoop up a handful of water and duckweed. I can see, barely, some lives wriggling on the underside of duckweed leaves. My mind knows that millions of small lives rest, for a moment, in the hollow of my palm, but my human eyes can't see them. I can see some of those lives by walking inside and looking at my pond lives through a microscope. The smallest and most numerous of them I will not see with my simple microscope. But I will see a host of living beings dashing back and forth within the drop of water I explore. I will see green filaments and yellow-brown clusters of decaying matter where tiny beings are lined up to eat, for all the world like people at a lunch counter.
Think of it. Every drop of natural water, every speck of soil across the whole Earth, seethes with life that the human eye can't see. This life is the Microcosm, the world of the small. The world of what we can get at with our human senses is the Macrocosm, the world of the large. We are one kind of macro-life, along with insects and plants, mushrooms and flying squirrels.
The Microcosm is small only physically. And not truly that, for it extends for miles into bredrock, and flourishes throughout the ocean and everywhere on land. We have just begun to realize how enormous the Microcosm is to the health of Earth. Every macro-life depends on the micro-organisms which are the roots of of all life on Earth. We cannot live without the continuous support of the Microcosm. The Microcosm is inside every macro-organism, not as some kind of invader, but as the ancestors of all these large beings. Each cell in our bodies is a consortium, or collaborative, of bacterial ancestors that over billions of years invented all macrolife .
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