We need to talk. The vibe between us has been kind of, I don’t know, “off” lately. You know what I’m talking about. The stilted conversation, the furtive glances. I feel like you could blow up right now and not even care.
No, no, don’t tell me “it’s cool” or whatever. Let’s get this out in the open. It’s about that article I wrote a couple months ago, isn’t it? “Best of Vestigials” published on July 22nd? Yeah, that one where I called you a “vestigial,” even “useless,” organ. To quote, “The most well-known of throwback organs, the vermiform appendix is [ . . . ] the vestigial remnant of a larger cecum, a digestive organ which broke down the massive amounts of cellulose that our stridently herbivore ancestors ingested.” Ouch. I feel like a father who yelled at you to “get a job” or something.
Anyway, it turns out that my “science” game has been playing checkers, while your “existing” game has been playing chess. Indeed, I’ve just received word that researchers at Duke University have discovered that you actually serve an important function — as a kind of supplemental bacteria-storage centre for the digestive tract. The findings, published in The Journal of Evolutionary Biology, even suggest that you’ve been holding down this secondary evolutionary moonlighting gig for about 80 million years now. Oh snap.
Even though my article left an opening for this possibility — “is the appendix just the leftovers of an ancient organ or does it have some other function waiting to be discovered?” — I still feel like the damage is done. I know being called evolutionary “leftovers” is a sore spot for you. But you know what? You’re not the only one who’s ever had an existential crisis. You’re not the only who is sometimes scared that they might be an insignificant mass of flesh.
I mean, look at me. At my widest, I occupy only 31 inches of space. At my deepest, 22 inches. And at my highest, 168 inches. In sum, I am only 831 square inches of space in a universe of endless space. I am only 30 years of time in a universe of endless time. Really, in any practical sense, I can hardly be said to exist at all. At least you’ve been around for countless eons, in countless bodies, in countless forms, tirelessly harbouring bacteria like it’s “no big whoop.” You’ve got that shit on lock, dude. Me? I just sit here, staring at a computer screen, writing imaginary letters to my body parts. Who’s the real “useless” one?
You and me, appendix, we’re in the same boat. And, in my glib attempt to be a “clever science guy,” I ended up hurting a real existential cohort. The fact that my scientific pedigree has been thrown into serious disrepute doesn’t even matter. This is my formal apology to you. Don’t leave me hanging like an attenuated vestigial organ. Please accept this apology. Please continue to cradle my bacteria with every bile-steeped nook and cranny carved for you by the ever-loving hand of evolution. For now, forever.
D. Purdy, Arts Editor, the Manitoban