I started the week here talking about what is above us.
Some such thoughts are sublime, like the thought of the great airships sailing the night skies.
Some of them make the flesh crawl, like the creepish things that creepeth upon the earth, like the spiders and bats that lower themselves down from their flight paths now and then and look us square in the eye.
It’s ironic that these last are the ones that make our skin crawl, when you stop and think what a bag of germs each one of us humans really is.
An article by Michael Specter that appeared in the New Yorker some weeks ago points out how the minute we are born we start loading up on germs. “We inherit every one of our genes, but not a single microbe. We gather them up when we arrive.
“As we pass through our mother’s birth canal we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time we can crawl we are “blanketed by an enormous unseeing cloud of microorganisms – 100 trillion or more, which have come at us from every direction, other people, food, furniture, clothing, cars, buildings, trees, even in the air we breathe.
“They congregate in our digestive systems and our mouths, fill the space between her teeth, cover our skin, and line our throats. We are inhabited by as many as 10,000 bacterial species; these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by 10 to 1, and weighing all told about 3 pounds – the same as our brain.
He called the article Germs Are Us.
Aptly named! Its main argument is that all this bacteria seems to actually serve us. Wiping them out with course after course of antibiotics that are now so freely prescribed looks like it might have been the exact wrong thing for us to be doing. The huge increase in cases of asthma, for example, may just be a result of the fact that medicine has found a way to eradicate h. pylori from our gut.
Turns out we may really need h. pylori. It’s kind of like Where would the Peanuts character Pigpen be without his enveloping cloud of dust? Naked. Naked to the elements, that’s where.
My great aunt born the spring after Lincoln dies used to say “You eat a peck of dirt before you die.” Looks like it’s a good thing we do. Looks like the 5-second rule on dropped bits of food that we then take up and eat anyway is a pretty good one after all.