Sowing: Metagenomics, science as metaphor

There is a relatively new field of scientific study called metagenomics.  Just as geneticists are tracking the human genome, they are also tracking the genomes of myriad living things.  In the world of microbiology, tracking the genomics of a pathogen can often lead to its source, thus helping eliminate future contamination.  But genomics at the micro-level can be a difficult undertaking and so the emergence of metagenomics.  This field looks at the genomics of communities rather than at singular organisms.  A sample from the human gut, for example, may yield bits of DNA from multiple micro-organisms; the tracking of the metagenome can provide the needed results.

I love the idea that we can be identified by the communities in which we reside.  I also love the idea that we are traceable on some level to the communities of our pasts.  I recognize it’s not so simplistic as that, nor is metagenomics as simplistic as I’ve described it, but… The seeds of each of our experiences contribute to the individuals we are today and, as such, to the communities with which we associate ourselves.

The metagenome that is UUCG contains his family history, her accomplishments, my sorrows, your joys.  I may not have experienced the prejudice that comes with being gay, but because you have, I am sensitive to it.  You may not have children, but because you are surrounded by them, they become a part of you.  You’re from the North.  He’s from a farm. She’s been divorced.  They’ve been happily married for many many years…

Billions upon billions of seeds concoct a whirling swirling stew.  What other communities do you participate in?  What stew is created there by your presence?  Where do you trace from?  What flavor do you add?  Where will those traces travel from here?

Lorena Gay Griffin


The Words of Wisdom? is a publication of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett.

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1 Response to Sowing: Metagenomics, science as metaphor

  1. Roy Reynolds says:

    Dear Lorena Gay,

    Thanks for this fascinating and inviting intro to metagenomics as a metaphor for the various communities of influence that we move within and that move within us. I take what you wrote as a teaser that will visit me and take me into moments of discernment and further imaginative explorations.

    You have a fascinating way of luring the reader — this reader.

    Rev. Roy Reynolds

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