03 December 2008

"I feel like a pig shat in my head."

This image is from the Mayo Clinic website. It's a microscopic creature that's related to spiders, the common dust mite, magnified several thousand times.

And what is the nature of human interaction with this creature? Well, each of us sheds hundreds of thousands of particles of dead skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year - and these creatures gain sustenance by eating it. Then, they do what all creatures do: shit occasionally, and die eventually.

So if you're allergic to dust like I am, you are actually allergic to the shit and dead bodies of dust mites, which we call "dust." We are surrounded by and permeated with forms of life too small for us to see.

I seem to be on a roll in terms of writing about health. This time it's because I accomplished the dreaded task the other night of sorting through my books, organizing them, and getting rid of 3 big boxes of them. But they were very dusty, and by the time I finished the job I had been feeling ill for some time. When I woke up, I suddenly heard in my pressurized head a voice from the movie Withnail and I, saying, "I feel like a pig shat in my head."

Strangely, feeling this way reminds me of my 7-week ordination retreat in 2001. The retreat was in an old monastery in Tuscany, Italy. I felt this way much of that time, but worse. It's not really the runny nosed type of thing that most people associate with allergies, but more like environmental illness. Thankfully it doesn't happen very often (7 years since last time), and it's not like I'm in a lot of pain or anything, just somewhat nonfunctional. But it does seem kind of crazy, because dust is pretty much everywhere, it's almost like being allergic to air...


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