Bio-Lego-Land: Building a Better Body thru Metaphor

In the September 28, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, we meet synthetic bio-Lego-boys Drew Endy and Rob Carlson: “Some of my best work has come together in my mind’s eye accompanied by what I swear was an audible click, ” Carlson tells New Yorker’s Michael Specter, who says Endy has never forgotten “…the secret of Legos – they work because you can take any single part and attach it to any other – in 2005 Endy and colleagues…started BioBricks Foundation…to register and develop standard parts for assembling DNA” (61).

What if Norman O. Brown had grown up playing with Legos? Would he have named Love’s Body, Lego’s Body? In Chapter XV, “Freedom,” Brown says that “Metaphor is mistake or impropriety…a little madness…a little seizure or inspiration” (244). 

“The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out…,” Brown quotes Bacon in McLuhan (Gutenberg Galaxy, 190).

“Feet off the ground. Freedom is instability; the destruction of attachments; the ropes, the fixtures, fixations, that tie us down” (Brown, 260). 

William Blake, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, drew the modern man: “The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands & feet Proportion.” Let’s hope the synthetic biologists mix their metaphors mercifully, for “A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees,” Blake said; nor the same Lego, for that matter.

More on the genome of metaphor.

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