Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bioterror: Joe's Toilet Seat!

We are all just prisoners here, Of our own device.

From a 2006 column published in the Wash. Post and syndicated by Amy Dickinson:

Dear Amy:

In a recent letter, a husband and wife were arguing over the proper position of the toilet seat (when not in use). Please tell them that the issue is not one of inconvenience but one of health.
Tests have shown that a toilet flush atomizes parts of the toilet bowl's content and spreads the tiny particles into the air, which end up on any object in the room. So unless they want to brush their hair or teeth with an extra ingredient, close not only the seat but also the lid BEFORE each flush.

Member of the Closed Lid Society

Amy's reply:
Gross thought.
Great solution.

Great Caesar's atomized, aerosolized, dirty-biological-bomb corpse! How in the world did I live this long after brushing my teeth with human ordure all these years?! But no: down that way lies the special madness of Howard Hughes, and other unfortunates terrified of the invisible death that lies in wait all around us. The fear is far worse than the death, for the most part. The illustrious members of the Closed Lid Society live inside their special Closed Lid Houses, with sealed airlock entrances and constant climate control, down to one-micron filtration of all air and water. When they venture outside they wear full-coverage micropore protective garments, 100% UVA/UVB Ray-Bans and a coating of discouraging chemicals to keep off the swarming, West-Nile and Lyme infected ticks, mosquitoes and centipedes. They raise their children in this bubble, who then miss out on the critical development of a normal immune system, and are then condemned to life inside the bubble, nursing their asthmas and allergies.

Unfortunately for the Closed Lidders, the world is and will remain a vast soup of organisms big and small, all competing for their respective genes to be reproduced, and no organism, however wondrously intelligent and made-in-God's-image, can stand aloof from this soup and hope to thrive. Every so often we are reminded that human skin is infested with a seething scum of tiny parasites and symbiotes that look not unlike the plankton of the Sargasso Sea in a microscope, and that the human digestive tract as well as the rest of the body contains more benign bacteria than the actual number of human cells in the body. Each of us is a massive high-rise development housing whole cities of amusing little critters. The complex is maintained by a really nasty, efficient security system that makes Orwell's totalitarian government of 1984 look like something run by FEMA. If you don't have your ID card right there on your chest, the T-cells eat you without benefit of counsel. Only a few very clever counterfeiters and con-proteins, like HIV, can game the system from the inside; all other invaders depend on blitzkrieg tactics to take advantage of some temporary weakness in the great Maginot line of the immune system, and usually their incursions only get as far as the Marne, where the tide turns and they get rolled up by a billion tiny Pattons.

The attempt to physically shield one's self from all biological harm, while reasonable in moderation, becomes a nice metaphor, when taken too far, for the alienation from nature that seems to wax every day, proportionately to the constant increase in technical ability in all our lives. If we could live without any of the 'drawbacks' of the physical world, why wouldn't we? There are deep and cogent philosophical answers to this question, expounded by eloquent philosophers, but here is my own simplistic answer: this alienation is killing us. We no longer understand how to operate the world on a stable basis. Poor and ignorant people do the best they can without knowledge or resources; rich and ignorant people pick and choose their beliefs and complacently imagine that they can control their personal worlds to any degree they choose.

Did we ever understand how the world should be operated? Yes, we did, for a while; on an intuitive rather than a scientific basis, we understood that existence is arranged in a great cycle, that we are all an equal part of it and that all the parts and members are important to the balance of the cycle. We made myths and handed them down, to transmit the knowledge of the Great Balance onward indefinitely. Gradually the myths became co-opted to serve special interests, so to speak; the interest of each tribe against all others, following the primal necessity of increasing one's progeny.

You can check out any time you want, But you can never leave.

Copyright 2006 byDavid Warren Rockwell

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