The surprisingly delightful musings of a humble Virginian whose satiric paeons to a plausible utopia implicitly shame the cynical zeitgeist of our times, causing it to cry, as 'twere, 'Damn, what was I thinking?' or words to that effect.

June 2018
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. Isaiah 11:6

And the Hairworm will lie down with the Cricket

It's all well and good for the wolf to lie down with the lamb, but I want the hairworm to lie down with the cricket before I sign off on the morality of Mother Nature.

I don't want to say that the hairworm is ethically challenged, but...

Here's what the National Geographic has to say about that interesting parasite:

"The hairworm infects a house cricket and then causes it to commit suicide by jumping into a body of water. The worm emerges to make its home in the water."

Not exactly the peaceable kingdom of Edward freakin' Hicks.

Even Mary Bates' above description is a euphemism for what REALLY happens to the cricket, for the hairworm Spinochordodes tellinii actually "infects" its host in that place "wherein the sun don't shine," thus adding both metaphorical and physical insult to injury.

This raises some interesting philosophical questions, especially the "meta" question of why more theologians do not generally acknowledge the existence of such horrors in the animal kingdom as part of their attempts to explain human evil and the overall ethical disposition of the Almighty, given that few modern divines can console themselves these days with the notion that Homo sapiens represent a "thing apart" from the flora and fauna from which we have latterly sprung some 100+ thousand years ago. Surely, any philosophy that attempts to depict the universe as moral has to explain the inconvenient truth that parasites are grossing us out at every turn with their fiendishly clever ability to take advantage of their fellow creatures, often in ways that we humans can't even describe without "putting ourselves off dinner."

It would be easy to sign off on the overall moral arrangement of the world if wolves did their own thing, lambs did theirs, and insects simply behaved themselves. But introduce the diminutive parasites into the moral equation and the Euclidean geometry of traditional moral theology becomes non-Euclidean, if not downright Riemannian, in short order. As a result, we philosophers are going to have to twist ourselves into logical (or at least semantic) pretzels in order to plausibly confront reality and still say (without crossing our fingers) that the sentient universe is a moral place. For, if you ask me, when nature gave the go-ahead to the design of the hairworm, it was essentially telling the rest of us creatures: "All bets are off now, you guys are on your own! Anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- now goes in your guys' so-called moral universe!"

Rather depressing, what?

I mean, I always thought it was a mighty tall order for the wolf to lie down with the lamb in the first place -- but that was back when I thought that critters in the animal world "played fair." Throw the ruthlessly amoral hairworm into the equation, and lying down with one's enemy is no longer enough: we'll have to make sure that the enemy in question is thoroughly deloused first before we knowingly hop into the sack with our traditional nemeses. "Mrs. Lion, don't get me wrong, I love you to bits, but would you do me a favor and wash your paws with bacterial soap before coming to bed? I mean I'm all about peace and reconciliation, but the parasitic world hasn't yet signed the treaty to prohibit biological warfare."

Copyright 2017, Brian Quass (follow on Twitter)