Tuesday, February 26, 43 A.B.
Take A Germ To Lunch Week
Muslims around the world celebrated one of their holiest times of the year last weekend. Eid al-Adha - The Feast of the Sacrifice. It's a feast which coincides with the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son when God allegedly demanded it. Muslims believe that son was Ismail while Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac, but no matter - all believe the end result was the same: No son was sacrificed because God interjected a timely "Just kidding!" and then settled for the sacrifice of a ram instead.
During Eid al-Adha this joyous outcome is celebrated with the sacrifice of countless other animals. An Associated Press story I clipped from 1998 tells me that on one day alone in Mecca 4 years ago, more than a million sheep, goats, cows and camels were slain for the glory of God.
Forgive me for thinking that there are better ways we humans could be spending our time.
Like what? Well, I'd recommend that we just sit quietly in our rooms instead, but it seems no one has ever much liked this particular suggestion of mine. People just have a compulsion to DO things. So here's a different kind of recommendation instead: Feed the animals instead of kill them.
I know, I know - it's a pretty radical idea. But if we take it one small step at a time, maybe in a couple thousand years it'll catch on and become at least as popular as the current idea.
We can all get things rolling in that direction this week by taking a germ to lunch.
That may sound odd and ineffective, but hear me out.
First of all, it's cheap and easy. Germs don't eat much - and they never order the most expensive item on the menu, then pick at it and complain when it comes. They go wherever you take them without constantly telling you that you should have taken them someplace else. And, unlike kids, they don't draw withering glances from the other diners when they refuse to put their pants on. Once you've tried taking a germ to lunch, you may never want to take a so-called "higher life form" out to lunch again.
Second, germs deserve to be rewarded with a meal once a year at least as much as any person having a birthday or an anniversary. Simple prokaryotes reigned as the #1 life form on earth for more than 2 billion years - which is about 200 times longer than we have. The sheer biomass of germy life on this planet continues to outweigh that of all other kinds combined. Why, the number of bacteria in a single human's gut far exceeds the number of humans who have ever lived! If that doesn't merit a free burger and a shake, what does?
Third, new tests reveal germs aren't merely numerous - they're dang hardy, too. Some can withstand pressures as high as 249,000 pounds per square inch. We pay some boxers millions of dollars for their "amazing" ability to withstand a few blows to the head and face. Simple fairness demands that we buy at least a few of these much more impressive germs a two dollar meal once a year.
Fourth, it just makes sense to know our neighbors these days. Yet according to Madeline Drexler's book, Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections, "We only know a tiny, tiny percentage, certainly less than 10 percent, of the organisms that are in and on our bodies." What better way to get acquainted than inviting one of these organisms to lunch? If nothing else, it just might help us discover which ones are plotting to fly cockroaches into our heads.
Fifth, there's really no excuse for not taking a germ to lunch. Considering that there are some 600 kinds that live in our mouths alone, feeding one is literally as simple as feeding ourselves. If you're really going to go to all the trouble it would take to slip a tube down your throat just so you can avoid feeding the little creatures that are all over your teeth, tongue, and gums, I, for one, do not want to be sitting anywhere near you at the time.
Personally, I've decided to take a cute little bdelloid rotifer to a very nice restaurant tomorrow. As you probably know, bdelloid rotifers are the largest animals which regularly reproduce parthenogenetically - yet when was the last time you heard anyone being rewarded with a gold or silver medal for THAT? Just one more example of how minor human accomplishments such as the ability to ski down a steep hill without soiling ourselves has been allowed to overshadow the vastlly more significant accomplishments of our invisible co-earthlings.
If you plan on slitting the throat of a sheep instead of joining us tomorrow, I DON'T want to know about it.
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(©Now by bdelloid rotifer wannabe DJ Birtcher)
Dear Sylvia: I keep trying to send you email at your old address, but it keeps getting returned to me now with the note "Consider This Undeliverable, You Idiot!" Because I know you must be going crazy in the absence of my daily updates, I thought I'd post my latest news here in hopes that you still have access to this journal.
I got a haircut yesterday. That's news in and of itself, of course, given my intense fear of strangers wielding sharp instruments around my head, but there's more. I went to a new place that specializes in Outdoor Barbering. For years and years I've done a lot of stuff outside, from walking, to talking, to eating, to taunting weird-looking bushes and then running away, but getting my hair cut? Never. Not until yesterday, anyway. And as luck would have it, it just happened to be a warm, sunny day for my first time - wooo-hoooo! It went really well, even though a steady breeze from the west meant that my hair ended up shorter on one side than the other. I called them about this when I got home. That's when they told me that the solution was as simple as remembering to sit to the left of a common household box fan. And it's true! As long as I remember to do that (and to move in synch with the smaller oscillating fan I take with me into the bathroom), I look GREAT! Of course I might be getting an earache now, but that's a rather small price to pay considering that many people spend thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery to look only half as good as I do now - don't you think?