Passage #166: 19 September 2012

Parasites!



I yam what I yam, says Popeye. And, in a way, he is correct. Sure. We are what we are. Yet, in another way, he is kinda wrong. For in addition to the human "you" which you "are," each of us is also a complex ecosystem of otherness. Myriad organisms live on our skin, in our gut, throughout our body. We couldn't live without them. They keep our body running. And, numerically, they outnumber us: only about one in ten of the cells in our bodies are human. The rest are bacteria, fungi, protozoa. They are not quite us, but we are them.

The ride title is a misnomer then, because we are not talking about parasites -- the ticks, the tape worms, the bed bugs -- no. The relationship in question here is one of symbiosis. Two things coming together to their mutual benefit. And, really, we shouldn't even be looking at it from Popeye's point of view. Our vantage point will be that of the gut flora. Not the host but the, let's say, guest (the endosymbiont, if you want to get technical). And, okay, even this symbiosis analogy breaks down a bit because chances are we won't outnumber anything. But -- bear with us here -- we will, for a time, merge with another as one. And our fate will be tied up with our host's. Our speed, our distance, our elevation: all at its mercy*. ...Until, ultimately, we must break off -- seeking alternate, donut-based sustenance once more.

  • Chances are it will be relatively slow, short, and low.

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