I was going to write an essay embroidering on a subject that has become almost a cliché, namely that Earth is not the Planet of Man, that a visitor from another star system would probably describe earth as the planet of microbes, or maybe the planet of insects, with some passing reference to some bi-pedal primates that in the very recent past emerged a capacity for verbal and written communication and self-observation, but that are otherwise of as little interest as the three-toed sloth.
But I decided that there is a better way to illustrate the insignificance of Homo Sapiens on the evolutionary scale by simply, as they say on the radio, "doing the numbers".
Life span (time on earth) - Ratio of Homo Sapiens to the Dinosaurs:
The ratio is: 1:3,200
In other words, you could fit 3,200 complete human cycles, from barely out of Africa to astronauts in space, and do this 3,200 times, to match the time span that dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Put differently, the fact that after merely 1/3,000th of the longevity of dinosaurs we already think about the possibility of our extinction is an indication of just how tenuous our hold on life here on earth actually is.
And if that were not enough, consider that the Dinosaurs themselves were only a moderately successful experiment in evolutionary terms. Compared to an amoeba they literally came and went in the blink of an eye.
Two cabbage butterflies alighted from a plant in my wife's garden, joined in mid air, ,and a split second later flew their separate ways. "That was a quickie" chuckled my wife.
It made me think: Do Cabbage Butterflies have a good sex life? As it turns out they probably have one better than the average human, and I say so not as an entomologist but based purely on elementary arithmetic.
The butterfly's life span is about 2 weeks
Its sexual intercourse lasts 1 second.
A human's average life span is 75 years
Human intercourse (according to Kinsey) lasts an average of 5 minutes
The ratio of a butterfly's life span to a human life span is 1 to 1,950
It follows that the butterfly's intercourse is equivalent to 1,950 seconds in human terms, or 32 minutes and 30 seconds. Quite a bit better than those 5 minutes.
But do they enjoy it?
I have a bad reputation, I know, but believe me it is not justified. Like everyone else, all I’m trying to do is survive. It’s not my fault that I am good at it. Very good. I am not evil, you now. Whatever collateral damage I cause is never malicious, and it is always in a good cause, the cause being my own life, liberty, and the pursuit of such happiness as a virus with no sex life can expect.
The thing people fail to realize is just how fragile I am, how susceptible to sudden catastrophic annihilation. You can’t imagine how hostile and unpredictable is the environment in which I find myself. My only protection is to follow the biblical “be fruitful and multiply” bit. All my ingenious mutations can barely keep me one step ahead of my rapidly depleting food sources. It’s a hand to mouth existence, not particularly elegant, but effective - at least for a while.
Sooner or later though there comes a point when the fresh supply of healthy bodies is clearly dwindling and even an optimist like me sees the writing on the wall.
Lately, there are those among us who have started to question our traditional habit of killing off the very organisms we depend on for our lives. “Responsible Infecting” they call it, “Tissue Replenishment”, “Eco-incubating”, and even (one shudders to think) “Birth Control”. What is a virus to do? Become a goddam intestinal bacterium? An amino acid?
Luckily, a virus is a virus even when she goes Green. Saving the environment makes a good bumper sticker but you gotta live, while you still can. So, go ahead brothers, ride that sneeze, ah-chee… that-a-boy.
A philosopher dude once maintained that the only truly conscious act a virus can do is to commit suicide. I’d like to see how many of our environmental warriors would take up the challenge.
Nah, for me, the most conscious act is knowing who you are, clearly and without judgment. I am a virus, a mutant who in order to survive kills indiscriminately everything it comes in contact with until there is nothing left to kill. That’s who I am, and all the pretty spiritual talk that smart viruses have concocted to make themselves feel better can’t change that simple fact.
Yet, I too am an environmentalist. I believe that if we can stay our course, keep doing what we’ve always done, infect, spread, pollute, and kill, we will be doing the greatest service to the environment. Once there is nothing for us to feed on we’ll be gone. And the rest of the world will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The Kvetching Factory
"Start every day with a smile and get it over with" (W.C. Fields)