What it means to be alive…

This is a tardigrade, AKA water bear AKA moss pig.

When I was a kid, I would have had nightmares to know that such a creature existed. But now I am amazed that such things exist. Not only do they exist, they outnumber us by a long shot. Millions, even billions, of such microscopic creatures exist everywhere below our feet, above our heads, in the forest, the seas, the bathroom and even our eyelashes.

Some people cannot handle that kind of knowledge.

Some years ago a man I knew who is now blessedly at rest in God’s hands, watched a documentary about microscopic creatures that grow on our bodies. As we are all probably aware, but possibly subconsciously, these things are all a part of normal biology, the man I knew did not attend school very often and then probably did not learn much in the way of biology.

So like I said, George watched a documentary about the biota that live in and on our bodies. He was apparently raiding the refrigerator for snacks when the narrator explained that the multitude of creatures inhabiting human beings were necessary to our healthy lives. That without them, we would die horrible deaths (no doubt horrible but the word horrible is added here as part of my imagination).

This man whom I will call George, was not of sound mind having been discharged from the army during the late days of WWII by way of Section Eight. George came home from the military draft behaving quite oddly. Whenever anyone mentioned the idea that he might look for employment, he immediately began to duck and put his arms over his head defensively. Then he would claim the enemy planes were coming and they were going to bomb us all. From what I could find out, he never left boot-camp, much less served anywhere an enemy bomber might fly over. My question was were they Japanese planes or German. I suppose it did not really matter.

After he learned about these unseen creatures, George went to work. He climbed atop his small mobile home and placed a lawn sprinkler on the roof. Then he attached a water hose and turned on the sprinkler. When questioned about this oddness, he explained the constant rain would keep the microscopic critters from coming in his house and taking up residence in his body or on it as the case might be. I have no evidence to support or refute his claim. I did not point out that the creatures might infest him whenever he came out of the house. I didn’t have the heart.

Another time, he when to the post office and asked that they not deliver anything to his rural route mailbox again. I’m not sure what the postmaster thought, nor do I know what rules and regulations this request might have fallen under, but apparently his request was not honored. The postman continued to deliver sales papers and junk mail to his box. I don’t know how many times he went to the post office, but one day he came home very angry. He took a chainsaw and cut his mailbox post off at ground level. When his brother asked why he had cut down his mailbox, he replied that government spies were trying to recruit him through the mail. In return for asking about the problem, the brother came home to find a big cedar tree that shadowed his porch cut down. George told him the tree was hiding radio transmitters installed by the enemy.

There were always questions about his sanity, but everyone thought he was faking it just to get a disability check from Social Security. I, for one, think he was utterly insane, but harmless. He lived an unusually long life for an un-medicated man. I am sure he had developed all the same maladies as any other old fart. He was overweight, ate junk food all the time, drank sodas, ate candy and never went to the doctor or dentist unless it was in an ambulance. He had no family, no children and when his mom passed away, no one cared for him. Yet, he continued to live as he always had.

He even had a car without an inspection sticker, license plate, insurance or driver’s license. Whenever anyone asked for his driver’s license, he presented them with his ancient military ID card. The local police and deputies all knew him and they never gave him a ticket, nor did he ever require one. He followed all the traffic rules, never had an accident and rarely went anywhere other than the local 7-11 Store or the Post Office. Occasionally, he stopped for gas.

If ever there was a lonelier man, I could not imagine one. Whether or not he was mentally ill, is beyond my reckoning. All I know is that he lived alone and he died alone and no one really cared.

n reflecting on life, I wonder if it would not be better sometimes to be a tardigrade requiring only a drop of water and a good chunk of algae to chew on, never knowing whether I lived in a beautiful lake or the surface of the moon.

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