Letter from the editor

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What's eating you?

There was a study done in a medical journal not long ago, about what happens when you get eaten.

Yeah, eaten. As in human burrito grande.

It seems like a tough way to go, there, getting eaten. Worse than being a Cubs fan, almost. Being eaten is a pretty sudden, screeching halt. Though lately I wonder if it wouldn't be better than a long, slow battle with cancer or Parkinson's, a senseless drive-by, hopeless alcoholism, an ex-wife with a good lawyer, or whatever it may be that finally gets our behinds in the end.

Eaten. It's fast, neat, clean, nothing to linger on life support, nothing left to bury at great expense. It would give the people who knew you A Great Story, and decent stories these days are very hard to come by. "Did I tell you about the day Uncle Dana got eaten alive by rabid wild circus otters?" And mostly, it's useful. The circle of life and all that Lion King rubbish. If you've ever watched someone you love getting sicker and sicker either physically or emotionally, you have no doubt wondered what the purpose is in that kind of suffering... being eaten has a clear purpose, a clear reason, a nice, solid explanation.

So the medical journal reports on a pretty cool study, as medical journal studies go - someone tracked down and interviewed every known living person who was partially eaten like a scooby snack, from Australia to Africa, by something a notch up on the old food chain. Your lions, your tigers, your crocs and sharks. Somehow, the IRS didn't get included in the devouring category.

The gist is this - researchers had noticed that rabbits and rats and such exhibit a peculiar response while being eaten by other critters. They struggle to get away, of course, but when the point is reached that death is seemingly imminent, they become oddly calm. They don't cry out in anger or pain. They seem almost blissful... not something you would expect as sharp teeth rip you to smithereens.

Problem with rats and rabbits and such - they aren't much to have a conversation with, except perhaps after a long evening at the pub. Even if they did survive their brush with carniverous fate, a mouse can't tell you how it felt.

There aren't a whole lot of people who have been partially eaten and are still limping around to tell about it... but oddly enough, all of the survivors described the same sense of calm coming on them at the point where death via appetizer seemed imminent. They described it as euphoria... and one after another reported that they didn't feel the pain.

This confused the science nerds. And there's nothing that appeals to me more than a confused scientist. (Except perhaps a confused scientist standing next to Heather Locklear who is wearing a string bikini, but that's another story...)

The scientists now believe that there is some primordial force inside us... perhaps a never-before isoloted enzyme or hormonal secretion, something like endorphines, that is specifically triggered by the experience of being eaten, which perhaps was not an unusal state of affairs for our distant ancestors.

If you needed a reason to believe in creation, I suppose this could be it, sparky. There's no physiological or evolutionary reason for something to be built-in to make the most terrible form of death into a moment of pain-free euphoria. There's no other way to describe it than mercy... a little last act of kindness.

Being eaten probably still isn't something to aspire to. Frick, is this going to be hard to explain to the State Farm agent.

I just wish all of the things that hurt us came with such a trigger - something to turn off the pain when we need it most. Few of us get eaten these days, but that doesn't mean we don't feel like it at times...

We get sick, or so tired we can't think straight. We lose a loved one, or have someone we care about turn their backs on us. A breakup, a divorce, a mental illness, an addiction. Lots of things that almost feel like fate is eating us alive.

In a kind world, there would be something that kicks in that helps us feel better again, that takes away the pain when it is too much for us, that lets us flip the bird to the metaphorical great white shark that is kicking our lives' butts, and say, "Yeah, fishbreath, is that all you got? Bring it!"

It doesn't seem to work that way. About the best we can do is let people know they aren't alone. A little bit of kindness, be it a spiffy "eat me" physiochemical reaction, or just somebody who makes a point of saying, "Hey, I'm here if you need me," it goes a long way. Look around, peeps, I guarantee you'll find someone who, quietly, needs a bit of kindness from you.

Whatever is eating you today, friends, don't go down easy.


Tonight, I heard a report of a burglary in Storm Lake on the scanner. The burglar made off with the victim's cologne. Crime stinks. This, I think, may be the stupidest robbery since the great Newell baby Jesus nativity scene robberies. And if I was a cop, I'd be looking for the lowlife with the worst B.O. ' bout now.

A Sioux City TV station recently aired a comment on its news that says people are calling King's Pointe "The Mistake By the Lake." I'm not sure who they are quoting there...

If the alternative would be to do nothing, and leave Storm Lake to the fate that the rest of rural Iowa is experiencing... is that what the naysayers really want?

We have an incredible development, nearly done - there is no such thing as a perfect anything, but I think that the only "mistake" to be made by the lake would be to not celebrate and support a community's efforts. Storm Lake is trying, it's doing. Get excited! And while you're at it, switch off the TV...