Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Parasitic, Symbiotic or Both?

In the current Catholic Times, Word and Silence column, a member of the editorial staff uses the Korean movie Parasite to reflect on life. The movie took the top prize at this year's Cannes. The title is ironic. Two families come on stage. One is rich and the other poor. The movie asks a question: are the rich and the poor in a host and parasitic relationship? Are they dlifferent?

Biologically, parasitism and symbiosis are distinguished. Parasitism is one-sided profit and symbiosis both receive a mutual benefit. However, life is complicated and doesn't follow human classification or standards. Parasitism and symbiosis are not easily distinguished. Difficult to gauge the impact of each on profit or loss.

Parasitism and symbiosis are a common phenomenon in nature. Microorganisms such as germs and viruses also live in other creatures. There are molds and mushrooms that live on old trees. Plants and animals also depend on each other for survival and reproduction.

The human body consists of approximately 30 trillion human cells. More are the microorganisms in our bodies. At this point, the boundary between parasitism and symbiosis is broken down. If all microbes are removed, the human body will die.

All living things, in one sense, parasitic and symbiotic cannot survive alone. They seem to act unilaterally, but bite and are bitten in an entangled ecosystem. All life can be seen as parasitic on earth. In that sense, humans are also parasitic creatures.

What is parasitic and what is symbiotic loses meaning when speaking about the essence of life. Life is parasitic and symbiotic with each other. In a narrow sense, it looks like a parasite, but in a larger sense a symbiotic relation. The host is parasitic in some fashion and becomes the host to other parasites. The host is not superior nor is the parasite inferior. The higher you go on the food chain of life more dependence on the lower part. Humans are at the top of their need for dependence.

The movie asks: do we have parasites in human society? Are the poor and weak parasites of society?  Are the rich taking the blood and stealing the nutrients from the poor? Can the wealthy and the poor distinguish good from evil? The strong often come across as doing illegal and abusive things, and the weak searching for justice. The film rejects such a simple view. Poor father says. "Son, I am proud of you." The son replies: "Dad, I do not think this is a crime."

We search for answers; the correct answer is ambiguous. Difficult to apply the answers of the natural world to human society. But we have the answer we prefer. There are no parasites in society. Only neighbors to get along with.

Pope  Francis called the earth a 'common home'. All life lives in the same house all dependent on our common home. No creature can claim exclusive rights before the Creator.

No one in is alone in human society only coexistence. Both rich and poor live leaning on each other. Both the strong and weak need each other. We live together with each other. It's a symbiosis, a win-win situation, coexistence, at least that is what it is supposed to be.

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