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  Chapter 31 from
Our Wondrous World

By Rabbi Avrohom Katz 


Other Available Chapters
30  33  34 


Special Protection

If you have ever visited London, the chances are that you went to -- or wanted to go to -- view the crown jewels. If so, you will not have been alone. Up to 15,000 people line up each day for the privilege of catching a fleeting glimpse at something of great value. There are two questions that everyone asks. Are the crown jewels real, and how much are they worth? The first question is easy to answer -- yes, they are real, and if you visit the Jewel House on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, you will find the case housing the Imperial State Crown empty, because the crown will be in use. As to their value, it is not possible to estimate. The scepter itself is set with 393 gems, including the First Star of Africa, the world’s largest cut diamond. The Imperial State Crown is set with 2,868 separate diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 5 rubies and 273 pearls -- real ones. How can anyone place a value on such wealth? If you would want to actually touch the jewels, for whatever reason. you would find it impossible. The security is virtually impenetrable. Shatterproof glass, alarms, guards, and closed-circuit surveillance are all utilized in guaranteeing the safety of the most valuable items in Britain.

It was not always so. In the latter part of the 1600s, when the present regalia was introduced, the crown jewels were kept, as now, in the Tower of London, on the ground floor. The residence above the jewels was occupied, not by the Master of the Jewel House (who had no desire to live in such miserable accommodations), but by a deputy. The deputy did not receive a salary, because no one could afford to pay him one. Instead, he was authorized to display the regalia to visitors for a small fee. He would do this by removing the crowns from a locked cupboard to show them! The inevitable was bound to happen. In April 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood, taking advantage of the lax and informal arrangements, attempted to steal the crown jewels. His daring plan was foiled only by the unexpected arrival of the deputy’s son, and the robbers were apprehended and taken into custody. Since that time, security has been tightened constantly, culminating in today’s situation where you cannot even take a photo of the invaluable and magnificent collection.

It makes sense that anything of value should be well protected. If the principle holds true with jewels, how much more so with the vital organs on which our lives depend. If you are reading this, there is a very good chance that you are using your brain. It is almost axiomatic that there is no organ more central, more vital to the physical well-being of a person than his brain. No computer exists that can duplicate all its myriad functions. The brain has a huge number of jobs. It controls the circulatory, digestive, and respiratory systems. It monitors the concentrations of substances such as glucose and carbon dioxide in blood, adjusts fluids and nutrient levels, and dozens of other body processes that occur every minute. The brain screens the gigantic amounts of information that are continuously gathered by the senses, and filters out all but the most important features. (You have a power to concentrate on what you wish to see, hear, and even think. If you tell yourself not to think of a certain subject, you will not think of it.) Our knowledge of the brain is less complete than our knowledge of most other organs. This is due to the astonishingly complicated microstructure of this wonder organ, which is comprised of 30 billion neurons, and up to 10 times that number of cells. Each cell is as complicated as a city. All that is in a space that fits into your size 7 hat! Nothing is more complex, nothing more precious. How is it protected?

The brain resides in a well-protected fortress. This fortress is the cranium, commonly known as the skull. The skull is a quarter of an inch thick at the top, and even thicker at the base. Do not think of the cranium as a single seamless case -- it in fact consists of 22 separate bones. These bones fit together like linking pieces of a jigsaw. Interestingly, when a baby is born it has fingernails and eyelashes. But the bones of its skull do not join together for some months after birth. This is not an oversight, but rather an ingeniously designed system to allow the bones of the cranium to overlap during the birth process, thereby expediting a successful entry into the world. Care has to be taken in the baby’s early months not to press on the soft areas of the skull (the fontanels ).

There is another good reason why the skull is comprised of a network of bones as opposed to a single bone. If a person suffered -- Heaven forbid -- a severe bump on the head, there would be some internal bleeding, which we would recognize as a bruise. If all the bones were one, the bruise with its attendant internal bleeding would spread over the whole cranial area, greatly aggravating the situation. By separating the bone into sections, the injury remains localized and a speedier recovery is facilitated.

An additional advantage in the cranium comprising several bones is that it allows different parts of the skull to be of varied thicknesses. The temporal bones (the two bones at the sides, above and around the ears) are the hardest bones in the body. They have to be, to give added protection to the delicate hearing mechanism that resides within. The tough bone surrounding the ear also acts as a resonator to the vibrations of sound reaching the ear, much like the wooden casing of the guitar enhances the sound of the plucked strings. The bones of the forehead and the lower face, in contrast, are much thinner, accommodating the vast variety of facial features that give each person their unique and individual appearance.

Inside the cranium, the brain is surrounded by several protective membranes and fluids. These membranes are called meninges, and their function is to give added protection to the wonder computer that lies within. Within the spaces formed by the various layers runs a marvelous fluid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This fluid is separate and different from the normal blood supply, and it has its own production factory. It is formed from two masses of fine blood capillaries in the roof of the brain. This fluid, which extends down the spinal column, is kept circulating by tiny cilia (microscopic hairs) which extend into the fluid and vibrate gently. Special valves between the layers of membrane surrounding the brain prevent the rest of our blood from entering the CSF.

It is obvious to everyone with a brain in their cranium that moving paddles (cilia) and valves are functional objects that have a specific job which is vital to the whole operation of which they are part. You cannot have half a valve or a quarter of a paddle. They are mechanisms that must work perfectly to work at all, and that each in turn is as functional as -- a paddle and a valve. No valve in the world makes itself, and no boat’s paddle has ever appeared by accident.

The CSF serves as a shock absorber, so the brain is cushioned from damage when the person jumps around or bangs his head. At the same time, it will be clear that constant banging can hardly be advantageous, which is the reason why the “sport” of boxing is one of the most dangerous and foolhardy. Imagine taking a sledgehammer and thumping your computer for a solid hour! Don’t try it. The CSF has another vital function. It acts as a barrier, a gatekeeper that allows some things in, while denying entry to others. Thus, it welcomes glucose, but blocks out bacteria and toxic substances. Most painkillers and anesthetics pass in with ease, but so, unfortunately, does alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs that wildly distort reality.

The brain is not the only vital organ in the body. The heart and lungs are as precious to the individual as the crown jewels are to Great Britain. How many bumps and thumps does a person endure? Imagine that the lungs and heart were without protection -- how would one endure the pain and injury? The rib cage that protects these organs is just what it is called -- a cage. By means of this enclosure, the vital organs are protected from mishap. Imagine yourself ice-skating for the first time. As you wobble away from the safety of the wall, life suddenly loses its stability. The likelihood is that within a very short time, you will make full body contact with the cold unyielding ice. The bigger the skater, the harder the fall. The rib cage is there to protect its precious contents. Even if a rib is broken, it will mend itself. No other cage does that. Apart from its protective role, the rib cage is a flexible unit, whose constant movements up and down are vital ingredients in the breathing process. The rib cage also supports your arms. In the human body, nothing, absolutely nothing, is simple. Everything is complex, clever, and interconnected.

The protection surrounding the crown jewels serves a vital purpose. An outside intelligence, recognizing their value, has designed and constructed the appropriate security system. It neither happened by accident, nor did the jewels, realizing their special role in English heritage, commission their friends the lumps of iron to come to their assistance. The One Who designed the complex brain, vital lungs and living heart also commissioned their protection. Look closely at the head, and you will see its Creator.

 
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