OK, so I woke up this morning and it sure seemed like a typical day. I mean, I felt like myself, as near as I could tell. Not that I ever felt that I really KNEW myself, if you know what I mean, but I was pretty sure I could still recognize myself in the mirror at least. Every day’s an adventure they say, and you have to start somewhere. So that’s what I did, and I have to be honest here, I didn’t like what I saw looking back at me. Like I said, it seemed like a typical day.
I shrugged off the usual disappointment and went to get breakfast, which was when I began to like myself even less. And it wasn’t the tequila sunrise with the Sugar Smacks and espresso that did it. It was the first article I turned to in the new issue of “Science Bites” that nearly caused me to swallow the rest of the tequila, along with a whole bottle of probiotics. Without any warning whatsoever the very first sentence made the startling claim that we humans are not all human. Even more surprisingly it did not limit this claim to my neighbors, or anyone in political office.
Then the very next sentence took that bombshell and exploded it, saying that only about half the cells that make up our bodies are actually human cells! At this point, my brain started churning, my heart started thumping, and my gut began doing somersaults, which only made matters worse. Were they doing these things because they were typical human responses to frightening news, or because these particular organs were afraid of being discovered as nonhuman intruders? How was I supposed to know? How could I even know who “I” was? And if I wasn’t myself, who was I?
If you’re finding yourself as shaken as I was at this point, and reaching for that tequila, all I can say is don’t, at least until you can determine which half is asking for it. And don’t bother turning to Socrates for help either. “Know thyself,” he advised, when he clearly should have said, “Know half of thyself, and don’t trust thy other half, particularly around strong spirits.” My only choice was to keep reading, and trust that science could tell me who I was or who I wasn’t, and if aliens were involved. My suspicions immediately turned to my gut, if for nothing else than for its ability to produce some truly unearthly gases.
Clearly heedless of my intestinal distress, the scientists went on to say that from our heads to our feet, our bodies are home to trillions of microscopic alien invaders. But don’t worry, they explain, none are extraterrestrial, although they didn’t sound quite so worry-free themselves when they noted that their purpose appears to be to take over management. I confess I didn’t quite know what to make of this either at first, beyond my gut instinct that management has long been in need of a change.
But when they confirmed my suspicions that Command Center for these aliens IS our guts, I didn’t know whether to make myself another highball or a high colonic. Who, exactly, are we taking orders from, our minds or a bunch of alien stomach bugs with big plans? And what do the little buggers want with us anyway? So many questions and I can’t even trust my gut. That means from here on out I’m only trusting my brain, which I’m fairly sure runs on tequila, not microbes.
Now if you’ve got a brain anything like mine, you may be a bit tipsy about now, but you probably also believe that microorganisms such as bacteria are essentially domestic terrorists, and that antibiotics are the special forces we send in to take them out. Don’t be so trigger happy, warn the scientists, telling us that our gut is home to whole communities of these microorganisms, abiding peacefully for the most part while they live, reproduce, go to work, and die, the same as we do, but without television or the internet. Which means, they add, unlike us, they’re totally committed to their job, which is to keep us healthy by regulating our immune system, manufacturing vitamins, and digesting all the food and food-like substances we eat! When they put it that way, it just doesn’t seem right that we thank them with Taco Bell, doughnuts, antimicrobial soap, and antibiotics. I’m curious to know how they feel about tequila, or prune juice.
Isn’t it just like our human half to misunderstand aliens and treat them like they don’t belong. The scientists even go so far as to say that we’re shooting ourselves in the gut, because they believe now that our mistreatment of these microbes is quite possibly the cause of skyrocketing health problems like allergies, autoimmune diseases, depression, autism, Parkinson’s, dementia, and even obesity. They do see a light at the end of the digestive tunnel though. That’s because the rear end justifies the means, so to speak, and they have been seeing positive results in treating many of these and other health problems with, are you ready, fecal transplants. This is just what it sounds like, and the reason they also call it bacteriotherapy. Many, in fact, see this as not only a big step towards a healthy future, but a great way to end a conversation. Or an essay.
Anyway, I for one am now glad that I’m only half the man I thought I was, and I vow to treat my other half with more respect and less tequila. It might just be my better half. Still, I’m glad I don’t have to see it in the mirror.