Had any of you heard of the Zika virus before about a month ago? I sure hadn’t. But now, understandably, it’s all over the news. I always find this quite disconcerting, when information seems to pop up everywhere all at once, fully formed, as if there’s this mind-speak going on, and we all have the same thoughts at the same moment.
I remember the exact day when credit card swipe machines appeared at cash registers. The day before I ran several errands and no one had them. The next day, every store I went to had them, and the first one had to instruct me how to operate this newfangled contraption. It was as though the entire world turned a financial corner simultaneously, and these machines popped up like mushrooms overnight.
It was the same thing with tilapia. One day I didn’t even know such a fish existed, and the next, it was displayed prominently in the grocery store and on a restaurant menu, and after that it seemed like you couldn’t sling a dead cat without hitting a tilapia.
I was thinking about all this last night because I couldn’t sleep, and that brought on the vague memory of an old belief that it’s possible to be born as a fully formed (albeit tiny) human being. So of course I googled it (and that made for some weird search terms) and came across this Wikipedia article on the homunculus.
Sure enough, in the 16th century, some people believed that a man’s sperm contained itty-bitty, teeny-weenie versions of that man, each one called a homunculus, and he simply planted them inside the woman and one would grow. (Of course, that didn’t explain why children often looked a great deal like their mothers, but this fact was conveniently overlooked.)
So there you have it. The Zika virus was not the first fully-formed thing to spring from the mind of man. Kind of makes you wonder what’s coming next. I hope whatever it is is a triumph, not a tragedy.
(Incidentally, I learned something else that is totally weird while researching the homunculus, but it deserves a blog entry all its own. Stay tuned tomorrow!)