Rendered Fat Content


The Four Humours, from Deutche Kalendar, 1498

The Four Humours are the essential bodily fluids: Yellow Bile (Choleric), Black Bile (Melancholic), Phlegm (Phlegmatic), and Blood (Sanguine). It was thought that imbalances in these humours led to illness, but that they could be redressed by changing the diet, taking medicine and by undergoing surgery or bloodletting.

" … cider and kosher salt couldn't quite qualify as essential supplies …"

I consider myself to be a CartoonScientist. Not a scientist, I have accumulated a body of understanding based upon some science reading, certainly, but also through exposure to sources as disparate as credential-less self help authors and classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Yes, Wylie Coyote taught me almost everything I know about physics. I think I might have accumulated slightly more reliable understandings than has the mythical average person, but I confirm my scientific beliefs through firm conviction rather than by anything like objective observation. I hold at least one of my thumbs upon every scale, skewing my measurements in what I imagine to be my favor. I maintain my worse habits by essentially giving myself exemptions from any ill effects which might stem directly or indirectly from those habits. I believe myself to be much healthier than average, better fed, and more psychologically mature, just like all the other CartoonScientists surrounding me.

In my lifetime, "science" has confirmed as real many times more phenomena than in all previously recorded history, producing an astoundingly overwhelming body of understanding, the bulk of it utterly lost on me.
I still rely upon an utterly notional common sense to guide me, an insistence probably not quite as reliable as the good old Four Humours. I do not personally practice blood-letting, though I suppose I might just as well engage in that for all the good my primitive understandings do me. You see, the basic problem with much actual science—by which I mean theories shown reliably predictive—has always been that the bulk of it couldn't qualify as believable fiction. Belief in quantum phenomena, for instance, simply must be taken on a kind of faith—faith in method, faith in individual scientists' ethical underpinnings—because a regular person—a designation that omits all actual scientists—cannot replicate these discoveries, and even their touted 'proofs' seems tautological and strange. The underlying facts of living seem increasingly obscure.

Then comes a virus, one which itself remains unseen, wreaking absolute havoc. We have no treatment yet. Our best scientists take center stage and demonstrate just how haphazard their approaches appear. Some rush off in one direction while others head off in some opposite direction, all feverishly seeking some cure. Politicians, perhaps the most primitive CartoonScientists, attempt to balance firm beliefs upon their own pin heads, complicating scientific advancement. Much of everyone's experience seems completely inapplicable here. In desperation, a consensus recommends taking drastic steps to avoid contracting this bug to buy us all time for science to find greater insight into detection, treatment, and hopefully to find a scalable cure. Frequently wash your hands, they insist, and avoid mingling in groups. The initial recommendations seem worthy of any fifteenth century practitioner, who most certainly understood all they did not yet understand. Some of the Old Wives Tales, the CartoonScience of those times, still produce beneficial results. In the absence of genuinely specific understandings, the old standbys might offer to at least do no harm.

I think it crucially important to understand that the vast majority of those benefiting from science do not even care to know about the details. Our faith in science holds only as long as it does not radically threaten our CartoonScientist beliefs. Sure, we'll wash our hands more frequently, for we can imagine Porky Pig washing his hoofs under Foghorn Leghorn's stern insistence. Any fool can shelter in place. We cannot sit idly by, though, and watch our economy crumble without painfully foregoing deep questioning about who might be gaining from our accepted misfortune. CartoonScientists hold skepticism just as highly as do their real scientist counterparts, though we lack the methods and tools to easily dispel our deeper misconceptions. The sincere predictions that extraordinary measures might flatten the curve of fresh infections and buy us time, only buys anyone's credibility once the curve starts flattening and after the time invested produces greater capacity to more effectively cope. We each hope for a miracle cure, even those grown cynical after years of disappointed CartoonScientist expectations.

I remain firmly behind the actual scientists struggling to understand and reverse this still-growing pandemic. I wash my hands and debate with myself each time I'm tempted to cross the threshold to purchase something trivial. I yesterday called my old reliable family butcher shop to learn if they'd agree to package up an order for me to drive by and pickup. The woman who answered the phone reported that they could not agree to perform that service, but that they were fully stocked and that I was welcome to come in and mingle-shop as usual, the very idea of which spooked even the CartoonScientist within me. These are clearly
not ordinary times. I might try to find a time of day when their parking lot's essentially empty, and slip inside hoping with my most sincere CartoonScientist heart alert to any danger, praying that I might escape without carrying any unwanted pathogen home along with me. I stopped by the supermarket yesterday morning shortly after opening time to find long lines backed up behind every checkout line. I quickly reversed my course and headed for the doors, deciding like any qualified CartoonScientist, that cider and kosher salt couldn't quite qualify as essential supplies in these terrible times.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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