[VIEWPOINT]Networking is at the core of life

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[VIEWPOINT]Networking is at the core of life

People who acquire knowledge about the system of nature often see through the apparent surface and find the true attributes hidden beneath.

For example, whales resemble fish in many ways, but they are not fish. Unlike cold-blooded fish, whales maintain a warm and constant body temperature and breathe air with lungs. Whales also do not lay eggs but give birth to their young. Whales also nurse their offspring with milk, another trait of mammals. Bats may look like birds, but they are mammals.

When it comes to understanding the relationships among those who make up the world, whether it is competition or cooperation, superficial understanding and systematic understanding have different perspectives.

The first impression that the jungle may give to human beings would be that carnivorous animals hunt and eat herbivorous animals. If human beings stop at that level of superficial observation, they would understand the world of animals as the world of competition where the principle of the survival of the fittest prevails. But a closer look reveals a structure of the world where cooperation, rather than competition, rules.

Substances comprise cells, which in turn form tissues like muscles, nerves or blood cells. The tissues make up organs like the heart or stomach, which are part of the circulatory system or the digestive system.

The systems together form life. Each part on each level is in a cooperative relationship, not a competitive one.

The cooperative structure is not confined to a single life form. Each life form constitutes an ecosystem. Individual organisms cannot sustain life without relying on the ecosystem and their environment. A single life form and the environment are an entirety whose components cannot be separated from each other. Zhang Hwe-ik, professor of physics at Seoul National University, called the ultimate unit ohn, or whole, life.

From this point of view, what we used to simply call the environment becomes part of the ohn, which includes an individual organism called "I." In this case, the environment becomes bo, or auxiliary life.

Then bo life of I includes "you," and bo life of you includes I. The theory well illustrates the interrelation and the interdependency within the ecosystem.

Within the structure of ohn life, each individual organism earns what is necessary for its survival from bo life, and in turn, plays the part that is necessary for the coexistence of bo life.

In other words, all the activities for the survival of each life form are possible only through relations with bo life.

The interrelations and interdependency can be compared to the Indra net in Buddhism. Indra net refers to the infinite size of the net hung at the palace of Sakra Devanam Indra, god of the atmosphere, storms, rain, and battle. In each mesh of the net hangs a gemstone. Each stone shines by reflecting the light emanating from the others. Each stone beams at all the other stones, and they reflect light back to the original stone. The net signifies that each and every person is as precious as the gems on the net, and they coexist in the system where each individual gives light and life to the other. Indra net is composed of coexistence.

The theory of ohn life and the metaphor of Indra net well indicate that at least for our survival, we need to pay attention to the life of the rest of the whole. A person cannot live alone. We have to realize that we exist only because there are others who support our existence.

All life forms on Earth have evolved along with human beings for the last 3.8 billion years. As for other human beings living on the globe, they are the bo life that we live with. They are not the object of competition; they are those we have to cooperate with.


The writer is a professor of physics at Korea University.

by Yang Hyung-jin

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