When you go (meditatively) inside your own skull, what you find there is - no, not the brain - but neurons thinking about themselves. That's right: a brain isn't an organ, it's an organization, an organization of neurons that you experience as you. So, when "I" go (meditatively) inside my own skull, here's the question that my neurons keep asking me/themselves about: "Why don't we (neurons) recognize neurons as life-forms?"
A few years ago I started writing about the idea of a "neural tribe." The notion is pretty straightforward: a neuron is a neuron is a neuron regardless of the body-form it's in. Your dog's neurons are essentially the same as your own. My point is: it's time we redefine what it means to be a human. Humanity is neurality: wherever you find a neuron, there - as a species - you are.
This is a tough taxonomical pill to swallow. But if you swallow this pill, it cures you of many misconceptions about our specialness in the jungle of life. Suddenly your jaw drops in awe as you begin to marvel at the sentience of a simple neural cell.
This paradigm shift (of starting to look at neurons not just as brain cells but as life-forms) is under way: I see glimpses of this here and there. For example, in recent research on sleep, scientists from Washington State University (James Krueger and Kathryn Jewett) cultured neurons in a petri dish and studied their sleep behavior. When disembodied neurons - not inside anyone's skull but in a petri dish! - were experimentally stressed out by electric stimulation, they "slept in" the next morning. The "slept in" phrase - in quotation marks - is straight from the mouth of the researchers. As fascinating as this sleep research is in its own right, what fascinates me even more is the insidious anthropomorphizing of neurons.
We need not fear this anthropomorphizing of neurons - after all, we are anthropomorphizing ourselves. Anthropos - after all - is just Greek for human. By anthropomorphizing neurons, we are humanizing the very cells that makes us - and many other life-forms - human.
It's time we - neurons - wake up from this curious reductionistic slumber, from this curious nightmare of objectifying ourselves as nothing but cells. The neurons in a petri dish - in my humble opinion - don't just sleep but dream too. After all we - neurons - do, don't we?!
My neurons dream of a day when we start recognizing the sentience of any neurons regardless of the bodyform/bio-house they inhabit - all across the living kingdom - from a "primitive" non-cephalized neural net of a jellyfish to a cat on your lap with its triune mammalian brain.