: the human body as metaphor* :

Here, in winter’s waning days, life has grown so contentious and turbulent that all I want is some quiet predictability. I mean it, pass me a heaping helping of boredom. That’s perverse, I know, but I’m exhausted from worry and speculation. My brain will not shut off.

So I decided if the old bean insists on churning away without my permission, I’d give it something to churn away on. And I did. I gave it a book. From the library. Not a fun, entertaining book like a novel, but an orderly, verifiable, fact-based, unassailable nonfiction book. A book that requires complete attention and laser-like focus.

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson was literally waiting for me to come skipping along. When I clapped eyes on the title, though, I did not fall in love. No. The human body is all well and good, but it scares me. Too many organs, too many diseases, too many gross things I’d rather not know about. Veins and bone marrow, ear wax, intestines and nasal passages. bleeeeaah.

I continued looking, but my mind kept returning to The Body and, like I said, I’m tired. It was right there, an easy reach. I grabbed it, checked it out, and went home.

I found, to my great relief,  a welcome sanctuary within its pages. For instance, did you know we blink 14,000 times a day? We do. Our lungs, when smoothed out, would cover a tennis court. Plus, even though we’re all different, hugely, vastly different, we share 99.9% of our DNA. Rigor mortis only lasts for a day ( ± ) and if we choose cremation our ashes will weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 pounds. It’s also possible a decapitated head keeps functioning for two to seven seconds, assuming a clean chop.

We are, you and I, an astonishing collection of 37.2 trillion cells operating in collaboration day in and day out. Yet, every day — and this is worrisome — one to five of our cells turn cancerous. Our wondrous, ever-vigilant immune system, however, hunts them down and puts them right out of business. Amazing, no? It tracks down one or five nefarious cells out of 37.2 trillion and stops them cold before trouble can start. Usually.

And that’s what the world needs these days: a watchful, steadfast, dedicated immune system like ours to fight off the sneaky, diabolical invaders determined to destroy us. This powerful force would patrol with unrelenting vigilance, eliminating all variety of wily subterfuge. It’d be immune to gaslighting and propaganda, misinformation and disinformation, bribery, threats of violence, secret agendas, everything bad and deceitful.  Most important of all, we could trust it. And I’d get some sleep.

copyright © 2019 the whirly girl

* Or analogy, I can’t keep them straight.

11 thoughts on “: the human body as metaphor* :

  1. It was good, very entertaining, and one of those books you can pick up and happily jump around in. It almost seems designed for our scattered brains, which is a nice relief.


  2. I’m going to have to have a look for that book. It sounds fascination. Of course I would not retain any of those facts and figures and would have to re-read it several time. It could be an eternal read for me. Which, as you say could keep my mind off the internal stuff that is going on.

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  3. I read that book over the Christmas holidays. It’s always informative and at times immensely entertaining, especially early on. And I like the idea of an immune system for society. But what happens when the immune system gets it wrong and attacks your own body? Are society’s present ills an auto-immune disease? There’s another question for a restless brain to mull over.

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    1. what a great question! i’ll have to think about that one. this is the first of bill bryson’s books i’ve read — he’s terrific! have you read any of mary roach’s stuff? she’s hilarious 🤣


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