Do you ever stop and think about just how crazy breathing is? If not, I recommend not going there. Once you’ve clocked just how complex, vital and finely engineered the mechanism is, you start to wonder if it really is as automatic as it appears. Then you’re on a one-way ticket to questioning the efficacy of the autonomic nervous system.
Anyway, now that you’re not thinking about all of that, let’s move onto why we breathe. I’m no expert, but off the top of my head, I guess it’s to do with absorbing stuff from the atmosphere into you the body. Going deeper, I have to ask why that would be the case. Like, why not have a fully self-contained system where the body doesn’t need anything from outside itself to survive? That, I assume, has something to do with the body evolving in a setting where oxygen is available, and somewhere along the line happening upon an efficient way of utilising it.
Humans have continued to evolve in this respect. As a species, we’re still finding efficient uses for oxygen, albeit ones that rely on technologies external to our own body (which might just be done with its evolutionary trajectory). Medical science, for example, has come up with a kind of oxygen therapy, which uses a device called a hyperbaric chamber. This encloses the whole body, enabling it to breathe air that has a higher oxygen concentration than what we can normally access in the atmosphere.
With a wide range of medical and therapeutic applications, it’s increasingly not unheard of for someone to be seeking a hyperbaric chamber to buy. Melbourne has clinics that administer the treatment, and you can even get it at health spa types of places as general wellness booster. As well as that, though, you can get portable models that can be set up in the home.
I know I’ve come a bit off topic here, so let me bring things back. Breathing is one of life’s great oddities, and humans will probably never stop optimising it to our species’ advantage.