We serve many masters, we surely do. Do you think you're in charge of your behavior? It's a comforting thought, I'll grant you that.
I was thinking about zombies after listening to this excellent Radiolab program about parasites, some of which radically change their host's behavior. It's creepy and fabulous, as Radiolab often is. I've written here before about tick borne diseases and how I've seen people become servants to that spirochete. It is rather horrifying.
A friend who is a brilliant healer and intellectual (and who, by the way, thinks Lyme is real, but not transmitted by the spirochete. He believes it's a social disease - interesting to think about) mentioned the human microbiome, in particular he is interested in the idea that we are mostly not human.
Here's a link to the excellent New York Times article about the microbiome, published last spring.
It turns out that we are only 10 percent human: for every human cell that is intrinsic to our body, there are about 10 resident microbes — including commensals (generally harmless freeloaders) and mutualists (favor traders) and, in only a tiny number of cases, pathogens. To the extent that we are bearers of genetic information, more than 99 percent of it is microbial.
We are zombies.
My friend reminded me that yeasted food, like bread, causes a craving for sugar. Sugar feeds yeast. Once we get into that cycle, it's hard to resist the urge. I don't blame the yeast. It's just living out its life, wanting to continue its existence. I can't blame it for making me want something sweet.
I could write a long post about hormones and how they alter human behavior. At least they are part of what we think of as human, but they do shape behavior in ways that has nothing to do with all the lofty ideas in our heads.
Addictions of all kinds change human behavior so as to serve whatever it is we're addicted to. Compulsions, too, might originate from something other than the part of us we identify with. It's spooky, isn't it? Spooky because so many of us like to think we're in control, that we guide our own behavior. We love the idea of control so much, we're willing to take the blame for self punishing, self destructive behaviors. It's possible those things aren't our fault. I can't imagine the cockroach, infected by parasitic wasps, wonders why it is obediently marching into a tunnel where the larvae will feed on it until they're ready to fly. We would blame ourselves, I think.
Not that we should stop trying to be kind to ourselves and each other, and to behave in ways that enhance good health. Not that we shouldn't attempt self determination. We have to try, but a lot of it is out of our hands.
As long as we feel well and are happy, it's probably ok that we're zombies. But there are organisms that are evil - like Lyme - that turn us into self punishing zombies. That is NOT ok.
We humans are complicated! We are are complicated zombies, but we are zombies, we surely are.
May all the beings that are of part of you get along well today. May they be united in the desire for all of you to flourish. May it be so. Shalom.