8.2 Microbes

What does the Lord of the Rings and Batman Begins have in common? You’ll have to read to the end of this unnecessarily long diatribe to find out.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about change, specifically how I want to evolve and get better as a person. I don’t really need to get into what the catalyst was, let’s just say it was a series of things, big and small, that brought me to the conclusion that I need to not just change a few things about myself, but do a complete overhaul.

As many people do around this time of year, I started thinking about my diet. Again. I’ve put a lot of thought into adopting a plant-based diet. Lots of thinking, very little action. I actually tried to do this once before and quickly changed my food intake all at once. I mean, I don’t eat terribly, but the withdrawal from that experience was just too much. I was weak, well, maybe weak is too strong a word, let’s say I wasn’t ready. So, I went back to thinking about it.

Maybe it’s because I’m another year older and at an age where things start to catch up with you. I’ve had a pain in my back for a few months and I know without a doubt that it’s because of the weight I put on from sitting around too much after a car accident and never working it off. Logically, I know the solution is to exercise more and eat better. But logic can sometimes be a tricky thing.

I’ve started sighing for no reason. Like, maybe if something terrible happened I could understand what was behind it, but I’m just sort of sighing at life in general. Then there is the grunting when leaning down and putting on shoes. The grunting is from the sore back, which comes and goes. The tone and loudness of the grunting is in direct proportion to the level of back pain on that given day.

I’m going to make a great old man.

I feel older, but in some ways, I feel younger. There is a clarity that comes with age, where you stop guessing at things because your decisions are rooted in experience. I have more acceptance of chaos. I haven’t stopped pursuing certain things because with age comes stubbornness, which could be bad if you are not willing to admit when you’re wrong. Stubbornness can also emboldening.

ANYWAYS. Change.

In some of my research into a plant-based diet, I came across information about microbes. Have you heard about this shit? It’s pretty fascinating stuff. Our bodies are actually hosts to trillions of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that perform a wide variety of crucial functions imperative to our health. The research has found a direct and causal connection between our intestinal microbial ecology and the way we think. In regards to food, depending on what we consume, we are training these microbes to want what we give them. If we eat a lot of junk food, this creates an expectation in our body and builds up cravings for these specific foods. We can retrain these microbes with healthier foods so in effect, we can alter the expectations of what our body wants of us.

Listen, if this is old news for some of you, I’m sorry. This led me to thinking about things in a wider perspective. There’s diet, there’s exercise, that stuff’s all great. But what about feelings? Internal dialogue? Negative thought patterns? There’s always been a wide gulf between the perception of myself as compared to other’s perception of me. When someone says something good about me, I often still have the immediate thought that they are talking about another person. I have a lot of self-awareness, perhaps too much. No matter how many times I attempt to break down this wall between who I am, who I want to be and who I am capable of becoming, it’s just too high. Or at least the perception is that it’s too high. I invited people out and I’m surprised that they came. These are my FRIENDS. Of course they came. That is logical. The difference between logic and complete self-destruction could be in trillions of microbes.

So, I started thinking about these microbes and my mind went to movies. The first was from Batman Begins and how Bruce Wayne has a fear of bats. Then he stands in what will become the Batcave, thousands of bats flying around him and he controls his fear. Later in the movie, he uses the bats to help him escape from a most sticky situation. He not only learned to control his fear, but use the very instrument of that fear to help him. Next, Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King popped into my head. Aragon and the other good guys need some help to fight the bad guys. Naturally, he calls on the Army of the Dead, ghosts of the deceased men of the white mountains who haunt the caverns beneath Dwimorberg. Once again, fear is confronted and turned into an ally.

Both those examples are essentially the same and I really didn’t need to use both of them. Whatever. You guessed it: the bats and the Army of the Dead are the microbes. Bruce Wayne and Aragorn are us. Maybe we can look at these microbes as a secret army that we need to retrain and help us in the fight to be better humans?

While writing this, I think I’ve realized something. It’s nice to talk about microbes and Bruce Wayne and Aragorn. It’s great to talk about change and have a desire to actually want to change. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Maybe all this talk about diet and self-perception and bats is really about fear? What am I afraid of? I mean, I was walking down the street earlier this evening and I came across what I thought was an opossum. It just glared at me, stared me down, watched me as I took a wide berth around it. I’m pretty sure I’m afraid of opossums. They’re fucking weird looking and seem mad about something. I’ve been afraid of silence lately. I’ve been afraid of being alone. I’ve been afraid of losing people…

I think I get it now.

Paul Dore