Tuesday, May 10, 2011

among the parasites

A parasite is an organism that lives in, on or off some other organism. A human parasite is a lazy person who relies on others for some or all aspects of  his or her existence. The organism on which a parasite relies is sometimes called the "host." In human terms, a "parasite" is frequently looked down upon or disparaged.

As there is no demarcation between night and day, I wonder where the line is between parasite and host. I'm not trying to be cute or elevated -- I just wonder.

Philosophy teachers are sometimes referred to as "philosophers." Biology teachers may be called "biologists." And artists of almost any stripe -- assuming they are any good -- are similarly unrepentant (though sometimes well-camouflaged) thieves and pick-pockets.

At what point does the parasite become a full-fledged host ... if such a thing exists? Is it a matter of "originality?" But what "originality" has not sucked its life blood from some witting or unwitting subject matter? Is it a matter of longevity ... if you live long enough, someone is bound to think you are host-worthy and elevate or curse your day?

Growing up as I did, for example, I have wanted to puke in the presence of intellectual parasites -- people who spout others' ideas as if they were their own. The exercise has a scent that is all its own, vile and petty ... and yet when I examine it, the whole matter becomes wispy as wood smoke and reminds me of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's observation about pornography: "I may not know what it is, but I know it when I see it." And I can look in the mirror and know that, in spiritual matters, I too have tried to suck the life blood out of the wisdom of others. It's icky and childish, but which one of us has not been, and perhaps continues to be, a child?

At what point does the parasite become the host and at what juncture does the host stop being a parasite? Some may say blithely that experience is the yardstick, but that strikes me as too facile: How do you measure anyone else's experience or even your own? And within that framework, how is it possible to escape the parasitism that brought you to this moment?

Intellectually, I think the whole thing qualifies as an "imponderable" -- something to notice, perhaps, but not to get your knickers in a twist about. Parasites and hosts abound. I drink your blood and you drink mine. "Better" and "worse," "wise" and "ignorant," "original" and "imitative" ... is any of it news?

As the investigation moves forward or flashes out with its bright insights, the only word I can think of that solves the riddle or eases the scene is... 


1 comment:

  1. I imagine the parasite see's itself as a successful predator or grazing a good pasture. Does prey think of itself as a host? Or the grass in the field? Is this just part of the unsatisfactoriness of life?

    The ruling class seems to think the teeming masses are the problem while the workers feel the bosses are living off their sweat. Beyond scientific definitions, maybe the one that complains loudest gets host status. They'll be the one most able to apply antibiotic creams to the ringworm.