It’s April 1st already. Crazy how time flies when you’re…well…doing nothing. I’m going to refrain from April Fools jokes since we already seem to be the brunt of a pretty bad joke played on us by Mother Nature. Can I get a bah-dum-bum?
The sun is beaming again today. Spring has sprung in Paris. And for the first time ever, a bird alighted on my balcony. Okay, it was a big, fat city pigeon, but still, the first time! Bah-dum-bum.
I’ve been thinking a lot about nature lately. Particularly, our place in it. On the whole, we’re not exactly at one with her. I’m the same; I’ve been known to say that camping is my idea of a perfect hell. That’s just too much nature for me. I get it: roughing it in the wild, sleeping under the stars, blah-blah-blah. Yeah, no. A little cottage on a pastoral hillside, perhaps overlooking the sea? That’s the kind of nature I can handle.
The thought that nature has the advantage can be unsettling to us “civilized” folk.
I’ve heard both presidents Trump and Macron declare “war” on Covid-19. “We will win!” they promised us. The news media uses terms like “stalks,” “attacks,” and “victims” when describing the virus in their daily headlines. Coronavirus is the enemy and we must conquer it. We will show nature who’s boss!
Cue aerial shot of a ravaged Amazon rainforest. Uncontrolled nature conquered.
Aren’t we part of nature, too?
I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked, I wasn’t a robot. Pretty sure, I’m 100% all-natural, born of a natural species called homo sapien. And both in, and on, my very natural (if not a tad flabby) body are a whole host of natural organisms happily enjoying our symbiotic existence. I did a little research on this subject, and the National Institutes of Health (US Library of Medicine) said that the total number of microbes colonizing the surfaces of our bodies is thought to be ten times greater than the total number of human cells. And there are trillions of bacteria in our intestines alone. The report* refers to these critters as “our microbial partners” that have helped us to evolve. We are a “supraorganism” and our genetic landscape includes both our own genome and the genomes of “our resident microbes.” These include beneficial bacteria, fungi, and yes, viruses.
Viruses good, you say? Yes. There are protective viruses called “phages” that target and kill invading bacteria in our bodies. They live in the digestive, respiratory, and even our reproductive tracts. These viruses have been used to treat dysentery, sepsis, salmonella, and skin infections for nearly a century. Viruses from a variety of families are also used to target and kill cancer cells.†
This idea that we must control nature, and eradicate all foreign bodies, is not only impractical, it’s dangerous. Overuse of anti-bacterial gels, at one time reserved only for hospitals, is creating super-germs resistant to treatment. The more we wipe out the microbes in our world, the more fragile we will become, and less able to adapt, and fight off opportunistic diseases.
I am not a monster!
Of course, this virus is not one of the “good” ones. Still, it’s a naturally-occurring organism, not some malicious monster, a Godzilla about to stomp on our houses. It’s not “the silent enemy” as I’ve heard it called here in France. It’s just a tiny organism that was once harmless to humans, but in the controlled environment that is civilization, mutated into something deadly.
We are part of the nature we seek to conquer. This virus is not separate from us; it’s of the natural world, like us. To revile and fear it like some evil force is to reject our own natural selves.
Yes, we must do what we can to contain the spread of this virus. But to view it as a Vicious Foreign Invader Set on Destroying the World—run for your lives!—adds a level of hysteria that borders on the ridiculous. How invincible can it be anyway? I mean, the thing literally falls apart from just a little soap and hot water. You could almost feel sorry for it. Bah-dum-bum.
* National Institutes of Health report: Evolution of Symbiotic Bacteria in the Distal Human Intestine
† The Good that Viruses Do, by Mario Mietzsch and Mavis Agbandje-McKenna, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Florida
Tip of the day
There are theories that targeted visualization can help in healing, and even in boosting your immune system. It works on the idea of acknowledging the disease within (Hello, Mr. Virus, I see you there), then engaging your own symbiotic organisms and immune responses to contain and remove the invader. Simply put: Visualize your immune system fighting off the bad bacteria or virus. You can use whatever imagery you like. One suggestion in Psychology Today: octopi fighting off invasive sea anemones on a coral reef. If you’re a neat freak, maybe it’s a Roomba cleaning a very large, very dirty room. Me, I go for Pac-Man eating the bacteria as he goes along. Wacka-wacka. Whatever works. The key is to make it elaborate and make the fight real. Spend time here, really fighting, really working hard. Maybe you lose a little ground then you have a resurgence, pushing onward until the final victory. Note: This is not a substitution for medical care, nor is it recognized by the medical community.