My son saw a few galls growing on a mango leaf the other day. Curious to see what was inside the egg like structure, he dissected it and found that it was only leaf within.
He then researched on it and found that a leaf midge lays its eggs in the cuticle of the mango leaf. The eggs have an innate intelligence and like a Virus they take over the leaf machinery and build a protective residence around themselves- We call this a Gall. It is a benign growth similar to a tumour. The eggs that create the gall, become a part of the leaf, live like a leaf, till such a time that the larvae are ready to come out the eggs. When the conditions are right, the gall starts to become brown, opens up a small exit like a lid and lets the larvae exit.
He then asked me a question. " If this could happen to plants, could it also happen to us? Could some parasite become a part of us and use our body for its own survival?"
"Yes there are such parasites that use our machinery for their own survival" I said. "There are viruses that can infect the organism and become a part of it and then there are certain parasites like Toxoplasma gondii that can alter the behaviour of infected animals*....."
Having clarified his doubts, I started entertaining my own....
Now we are going to move from a state of 'we know it all', to an inner world where we feel lost and wonder if the reality is really what we perceive it to be?
Given below is a glimpse of a few of the crazy thoughts and questions that I keep asking myself. After going through the contents some of you might sympathize with me and for that I am grateful.
If however there are a few of you who have had similar questions about life, about that mysterious "I" feeling that seems to be disconnected from the rest of the body- do share with me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of what you will be reading now are Questions, rather than definitive answers.
So back to our galls :)
This gall topic also set me thinking:
Are we actually the parasites who grow in a human body?
Does it explain as to why we are a part of the body, yet the human body is so alien to us? Is the human body special because it is the only vehicle that lets in a driver?
Could it be possible that a human baby is infected with this mysterious "I" bug sometime after conception and as the "I" integrates into the body, the personality starts to take shape?
Now that the "I" driver is inside he has to learn as to how the vehicle needs to be driven, is this the reason as to why we are so different from other animals, in the time it takes us to come up to speed?
Could this also be the reason as to why other animals that are on autopilot and not infected with the "I" bug, don't need to learn medicine and ways of life- they know it all.
The dog knows what grass to chew on and which herbs to eat when he is having a stomach upset. The cats and the goats, the monkeys and the birds... they all know as to what needs to be done and they do it automatically. We as humans, on the other hand are clueless. We have to research and find new things about OUR OWN BODIES: and surprisingly for many of us this behaviour does not seem strange!
Our body is an engineering marvel that has been built by the partnership of two illiterate cells, and yet we with all our education have not been able to understand the technology of the so called illiterate cells. All that we can do is to dissect and mutilate the cells and claim that we have found something new- when in fact these organ systems and processes have been around for millions of years ! So if I have no clue about this technology, could it be that "I" am the alien- the illiterate one who has access to this engineering marvel called as the Human Body?
Research that we do today is equivalent to house owners attempt to find treasure on the first floor of a house that he built. If the house is yours is there ever a need to reverse engineer it to understand it better ?
Would any of us go about searching for new secret rooms in our own residence ?
So if "I" am really an alien in this human body, what is it I can do to better manage this vehicle?
As a driver the choices we make can impact our vehicle in ways that could be good or bad. If we are ethical drivers, we maintain a symbiotic relationship with the vehicle. If we are unethical drivers, then we abuse the vehicle like parasites. And when the vehicle is beyond repair- we exit.
* In order to survive, Toxoplasma gondii has been known to alter behaviour of certain animals it infects. For e.g. it makes the rodents more fearless and hence the rodents could fall prey to a cat. The toxoplasma gondii then infects the cat as it is the main host for this parasite.
Research on Toxoplasma gondii's ability to modify the behaviour of the host
Berdoy M, Webster JP, Macdonald DW (August 2000). "Fatal attraction in rats infected with Toxoplasma gondii". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 267 (1452): 1591–4. doi:10.1098/rspb.2000.1182. PMC 1690701. PMID 11007336.
Flegr J, Havlícek J, Kodym P, Malý M, Smahel Z (July 2002). "Increased risk of traffic accidents in subjects with latent toxoplasmosis: a retrospective case-control study". BMC Infectious Diseases. 2: 11. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-2-11. PMC 117239. PMID 12095427
Sugden K, Moffitt TE, Pinto L, Poulton R, Williams BS, Caspi A (2016). "Is Toxoplasma Gondii Infection Related to Brain and Behavior Impairments in Humans? Evidence from a Population-Representative Birth Cohort". PLOS ONE. 11 (2): e0148435. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1148435S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148435. PMC 4757034. PMID 26886853
Pearce, B. D.; Kruszon-Moran, D.; Jones, J. L. (2012). "The Relationship Between Toxoplasma Gondii Infection and Mood Disorders in the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey". Biological Psychiatry. 72 (4): 290–295. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.01.003. PMC 4750371. PMID 22325983
Johnson, S. K.; Fitza, M. A.; Lerner, D. A.; Calhoun, D. M.; Beldon, M. A.; Chan, E. T.; Johnson, P. T. (2018). "Risky business: linking Toxoplasma gondii infection and entrepreneurship behaviours across individuals and countries". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 285(1883): 20180822. doi:10.1098/rspb.2018.0822. PMC 6083268. PMID 30051870