I was in a room with a woman I did not know and she was trying to kill a gnat, which was dive-bombing us, thirsty for the moisture of our eyes and lips, the sweat on our skin. Gnats swarm through hot regions. In the American south, people call them no-see-ums. In the American north, they’re called midges. The word for gnat In Hebrew is “barchash.” The word for gnat in Arabic is “nanat.” Whatever the word, gnats are ubiquitous in the Middle East. Along with street cats. And wars. And people who can be cranky to the point of being murderous. Or capable of astounding hospitality and love.
The woman and I had both earned advanced academic degrees. But the gnat, with a brain you can’t discern without a microscope, was winning. I didn’t know the other woman well, though I instinctively liked her. Still, to get her to give me the professional help I needed (nothing to do with the gnat), I’d have to pay her thousands of shekels. Because we were strangers. Though every human is more like every other human than we generally admit…. The palest-skinned person and a person rich in color have the same 46 chromosomes. Everyone in our species is, in scientific terms, the same. The concept of “race” is a myth.
A gnat only has 12 chromosomes. But this gnat, an infinitesimal flying drone smaller than a poppy seed, was driving us nuts. Landing on our skin and taking off with such deftness and speed we couldn’t catch it, kill it, or swat it away. Like their cousins, mosquitos and flies, gnats have evolved into a brilliantly-annoying design.
She and I wore masks to not-give each other Covid. We weren’t sick, just trying to be safe. Not so different from the emotional, psychological and sociological masks people put on. Maybe, in some ways, this does make us safer. Yet this woman and I had more similarities than differences. And the gnat was our enemy.
Nature is powerful. Ask any parent. Scientists can tell you about the physical processes that transform a fertilized cell into the bones, muscle and mind of a new human being. But no one can prove they understand the metaphysical forces that spark new life. We imagine we know. Some proclaim that they know. Others go so far as to try to persuade their tribes and nations to kill tribes and nations with alternate metaphysical beliefs.
The truth is humans can’t even agree on the wearing of masks. Or what heals and what doesn’t. Or what, exactly, is real.
I believe every living being is a miracle. I believe self-awareness is majestic. I believe most souls yearn toward the divine.
But, to be honest, that gnat was irritating. And I wanted it gone.