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Category: Humans

Monsters
What is the scariest animal?

That’s a personal question, of course. Some people are afraid of snakes … something about the slithering is disquieting, although I think there’s more to it than that. To others, even the thought of a big, hairy tarantula scurrying across the kitchen floor will send shivers though their gut. This one also reflects some hidden kinkiness.

I’m not necessarily talking about rational fear (if there is such a thing). It makes sense to be afraid of a tiger, for instance, or a crocodile, or a python. Those dudes will kill you and eat you; you need to be afraid of them. What I’m wondering about are the deeper terrors of the soul.

I’ve heard that the creators of the movie Alien wanted the look of the monster to touch the audience in some primal place, some psychic zone filled with ancestral dread. The teeth, the head, the tail, the knack for exploding out of peoples’ chests — all were crafted to scare you down to the toenails.

But there is something much, much worse. If the Alien is our nightmare creature, then these are her nightmares. Except they are real, and they are everywhere. In the carpet, on the furniture, and all over you!

Mites, they call some of them — such a cute name for such horrific creatures. There are also water bears and pseudo scorpions. Please, don’t Google these. If you do, their great, jagged mandibles, and their hideous visages will surely haunt your dreams. Yes, they are crawling on you right now. Their multiple appendages are insinuating into your skin; their claws are tearing at you, dislodging hunks of living flesh and passing them to the all-consuming maw — relentlessly feeding, feeding, feeding.

Now, I don’t want to alarm you, but you are being devoured in this way constantly. It’s all being done on a tiny scale, but it is no less violent than a tiger attack. At least the tiger is a handsome, noble beast. These creatures wear the face of Satan himself.

And yet, there is no sense in fearing them. After all, there’s not much you can do to defend yourself. Perhaps it's best to imagine them as microscopic bunnies or plump little cupids or tiny cartoon elves frolicking in the misty glens and sheltered dells of your personal landscape. That wouldn't be so bad.

Whatever you do, though, do not think of them as monsters from the depths of your personal hell roaming your body at will and eating you alive. In fact, I’m sorry I brought it up.
The U. S. of Us
For starters, your face would be New York City.

Media, the arts, business, the really Big Time — are all centered in the Big Apple. And if your body were the United States of America, your kisser would have to be the home of Broadway, MOMA, Wall Street, and the hub of the communications industry. Wouldn’t it? I suppose your face could be L.A., but that would only be true if all you did was watch TV all day.

Your arms and shoulders are the industrial Midwest. Can’t bench press what they used to, but throw in some discreet padding, and no one will know the difference.

The rest of the body is pretty much flyover country. Some of it, I’m sure you’ll agree, is nighttime flyover country. That’s why we have clothes. I don’t mean to suggest, however, that these nether regions are without merit or even beauty. The navel, for example, is a unique and wondrous place — comparable to the Grand Canyon. Or, in some cases, to Half Dome. Either way, your belly button ranks as one of our elite national parks. The nipples are perhaps our most popular National Monuments, and there are numerous recreational opportunities nearby.

After that, the metaphor breaks down a little bit. The mighty Mississippi seems like a natural in the role of the alimentary canal — with New Orleans at the end as party central. It’s hard, though, not to give Nevada the nod as our crotch. Its long history of catering to base instincts and its proximity to weapon testing sites make it an obvious choice.

I’m tempted to cast the armpits as the Everglades, but that would mean two Everglades, which seems wrong. Maybe bayou country could stand in as the left pit, the ‘glades as the right. We all know that no two pits are exactly alike.

That little spot on your arm that crusts over and itches might be Oklahoma. Not our most beautiful attribute, but certainly fun to pick at. The West Coast could be our hair — long and lovely and utterly without substance. Alaska is a hat that flew off in an icy wind. Hawaii’s a well-spat loogie.

All right, the metaphor is in a complete shambles at this point. Just one more before I go, then. To all my fine Texan friends let me say with love: The Lone Star State is our big, fat arse.
Heaven
Have you ever imagined yourself in heaven? What’s it like? Are there green hills and waterfalls and sunshine? Are you hanging with Abraham Lincoln and Einstein and St. Francis of Assisi? Is your dog there, leaping and bounding and full of joy?

Well, there may be blue skies and superstar saints, but I’m afraid Fido won’t be in attendance. That’s the common wisdom, anyway, among people who really believe there is a Heaven. Animals don’t have a heaven; they’re just, well, animals, not demigods like us. So there’s no Fido, no Lassie, no Mr. Snugglesworth, no pets of any kind. Sorry if that makes your afterlife a bit less attractive.

Truth be told, there are no TV sports in Heaven, either, nor drinking of alcoholic beverages, nor ingesting even the smallest amounts of low-level Schedule IV drugs. Oh, and no sex. My guess is that Management would either frown on such activities or see no need for them in the hereafter — not when you’ve got access to all those singalongs with the rest of the heavenly host.

It should be mentioned, furthermore, that some of your most beloved party animal buddies will not be joining you in the by-and-by. My guess is that there will be no lives of the party in Heaven. In that role, God Himself has been cast — by God Himself. And, though I would never say that God is a wet blanket, I can’t imagine Him donning a lampshade or leading an impromptu 3 a.m. road trip to Limbo.

Some tellings of the story of Heaven suggest that we won’t even have bodies there. By this reckoning, only our souls make it to the promised land, along with our personalities and our memories. We’d be wide awake (sleep no longer being necessary) for all time, with full recall of all the types of fun we can no longer have.

Let’s be blunt: Heaven does not sound like a very good deal. It certainly isn’t much of an incentive for being nice, if that’s the rationale for its existence. But what about the alternative? Hell? Let me end the suspense right now and inform you that there is no such place or state of mind. Do you really think that an infinite, all-loving being would torture people forever just because they cheated on their husband or slept through church one Sunday? If He would, then I invite Him to bite me.

No, Hell was made up by a bunch of robed, pomaded control freaks a long time ago to scare people into following their orders. It doesn’t exist, and we don’t have to worry about going there. So it’s Heaven or nothing.

Look, I like green hills and waterfalls. I could even put up with the billions of ecstatic fellow residents as long as they didn’t shove their ecstasy in my face. But once you eliminate Hell as one of the possibilities, the choice becomes easy. I don’t need to talk to Abraham Lincoln, and shouting hosannas throughout eternity might get old after a few thousand years. If Heaven’s the only option, just let me make the most of life, then die.

I’ll take my chances with reincarnation, perhaps as the next Mr. Snugglesworth. Then, at least, I wouldn’t have to worry about this cockamamie afterlife stuff.
On Lips
If you pay attention to the glamour of the Golden Globes and the Oscars, it is hard not to notice the lips. On the women, at least, they are painted and glossed and glittered to show them off in the most attractive way possible. If you were an alien life form (a giant gastropod from the vast seabeds of Cygnus 5, let’s say) viewing lips only in this context, it would be tempting to dismiss them (like the starlets whose faces they grace) as beautiful and nothing more — shallow, unaccomplished, dumb.

Such an impression would be false. Lips are not only the most talented of all organs, but among the most worldly as well.

Lips are not a complicated organ, I’ll give you that — just two wet strips of flesh framing a major bodily orifice. But as my real estate agent says, it’s all about location, location, location. Lips are in a position to witness every substance that enters our body: food, air, dust, flying flotsam, and all manner of prescription and non-prescription medications. No other orifice can boast this depth of experience, at least not in public.

Nor do they just lie there like slugs (no offense if you are indeed a giant gastropod). They manipulate everything we ingest — moistening, reorienting, testing for proper temperature and chewability. They monitor the speed at which these things enter the body, screen them for taste and consistency, and repel unwanted intruders. They can even serve as a buffer against impact, pursing into defensive mode to shield the teeth. Hot lips, maybe, but brave and strong. Think Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft.

Similarly, the lips act to modify and direct all that flows out of the mouth. Whistling, kissing, spitting, belching, the expulsion of bad air, and communication are all performed with the direct participation of the lips. Even when you’re texting, you hear the spoken words in your head, and I see your lips moving at the same time (yes, I was watching you). And it’s not just about audio; the lips’ ability to smile, sneer, snarl, smirk, or go wide with surprise is a key element in successful messaging to our fellow humans.

Compare, if you will, a day in the life of your lips with that of any of your other organs. Not only is there something going on 24/7, but there is an astounding variety of functionality — all of it using just those two strips of wet flesh. The day-in, day-out existence of your buttocks or your alimentary canal, though they may be interesting and worthy of admiration, just do not stack up when it comes to the non-stop excitement experienced in the lives of your lips.

I can’t say that I have ever felt genuinely sorry for movie starlets. Yes, they may have been crippled in their lives by the subtle discrimination of low expectations, but on the other hand, they’re actually in the Academy Awards, not just watching them at home on TV. In much the same way, I do not lament the lack of respect endured by lips. They may be discounted because they like to dress up and look pretty, but their world is filled with the kind of exhilaration and high adventure that other organs can only dream of.

And to those giant gastropods who might be taking in their first Oscars, I urge you to be gentle in your judgments of our organs and of our starlets. I hope that we will be equally judicious when we have the chance to view, at last, your dorsal feeding appendages. I am sure they are highly skilled and quite lovely.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee