the idea of poison is a funny one, really. paradoxical and amusing. deadly if potent, useless if impotent. weapon, anti-venom, medicines. pesticide, disinfectant, preservative and execution method. curative yet sinister. some strongly recognizable (those colourful rain forest frogs are deadly; trust me on this one) but some completely undetectable to naked human senses (such as carbon monoxide).
where did this thread start from? well, i was cycling around annex (one of my fav neighbourhoods in yyz) and dropped by my fav used/new bookstore. having seen a rather nice shirt with 'where the wild things are' earlier today, i couldnt help it but to go take a look at children's section. and of course there was a rather precocious child arguing with her parent:
mom: stop licking your hands! if you keep licking your hands after having an ice cream cone, you may get sick!
child: from what mom?
m: from all the dirty things on the road- remember? bacterias-
c: but i cant see them?
m: no, but that doesnt mean they arent there-
c: would i die?
m: if you have a bad case of food poisoning, yes-
c: but you said yesterday the green potatoes have poison-
c: but we eat potatoes?
m: yes, just not green ones
c: it's poisonous food?
m: food poisoning would be different, dear-
c: am i gonna die now?
m: just stop fiddling with your hands please!
(gigantic bottle of sanitizer pops out of nowheres)
it is so easily obtained nowdays that it's kind of ridiculous to see what poison one has around oneself: simple medications (aspirin, tylenol) including any kinds of antibiotics and most of chemotherapy (well, in this case, it would qualify as toxic rather than poisonous). alcohol. food (if you can ingest enough apple seeds or almonds, you could theoretically die from cyanide poisoning. though it would be more likely that you will die of busted guts. it will take a QUITE a bit of apple seeds to kill self. i wont recommend it) (however, if you are clever and fancy yourself as a cynic, you could take after the mathematician turing, who apparently painted an apple with cyanide and took a bite. good one)
ooh let's not forget neglected potatoes, lost but waiting patiently in the end of the fridge or dim cabinet corner space. with their evil eyes and shoots. haha. it stares right back at you and will even give you a bit of bite with their alkaloid- solanine and chaconine. solanine is fungicidal and pesticidal. once sprout, taters are no longer dormant. they'll defend their future (oooh picture little seedling potatoes now). when a tater turns green with eyes, the ball's in its court. once green, the average concentration could be high as 1mg/g, and you may only need 3-6 mg/kg of one's body weight to reach death through nausea/ cramps/ gastro-intestinal distress/ hallucination/ paralysis/ hypothermia. solution: just cut off the eyes and peel the damning tuber. eat them before they get a chance. like gremlins, in the right condition, they are perfectly nice and approachable.
i am sure everyone in this earth have experienced poisoning at certain part of their lives: including food poisoning. i had a pleasure of experiencing various kinds (fortunately or unfortunately, not dead yet), including radiation poisoning, which isnt really kosher to the definition anyhows. this was during an isotope cardiogram testing that i took as an undergrad. basically, in an isotope cardiogram, one is required to inhale a whole bunch of isotopes, which works like a dye in the body; you lie very still for coupla hours and eventually it will create a dependable visual representation of your cardio system. the trick is that if one is hypersensitive or the dosage was too much, one gets an acute reaction, commonly referred as 'creeping dose.' well, it really wasnt all that spectacular. i just was knocked out flat for two days. woozy monkey had found way home, then collapsed and slept. my housemate was concerned and called the cardiogram center and they casually said: well, sleep it off. long as she's breathing, it'll be okay.
i suppose if i stopped breathing, they didnt have to bother with further cardio-related testings! either way, it was quite interesting experience as i just totally lost two days of my life. i remember... not much! haha.
the curious thing is that the average, like you and i, will probably not die of poisoning, just merely suffer for a bit. temporary, really. the suffering from food poisoning, for instance, is tedious and annoying. and you get no respect what so ever. if you actually die, however, then it becomes something of a news. remember these guys?
adolf hitler (cyanide)
pope clement vii (death cap mushroom)
alexander litvinenko (radioactive polonium-210)*
*this guy was recent. 2006 death, russian ex-spy.
snow white (okay now im just being silly)
romeo (though i think he was really a basket case nutters and being that hot-headed and impatient, he was prob due for an early exit anyways)
anyhows. enough of musing facts.
it is also of an interest to note the expression: an agent that causes spoilage, destruction of an organism or death. as of 'posion someone's mind.' we, at this point, are all very familiar with that expression. like physical poisoning, we've all been through it at one point or another. and yes, like physical poisoning, it is unlikely that you will die (but surely, will suffer a bit) it is also oh-so-casually-surprising to realize that such reaction may take a place -a mental poisoning or non-physical poisoning if you will- without one's active involvement. michael pollan, one of my favorite non-fiction writer, makes a very good point in his book 'omnivore's dilemma':
.. the question of what to have for dinner assail every omnivore, and always has. when you can eat just about anything nature has to offer, deciding what you should eat will inevitably stir anxiety, especially when some of the potential foods on offer are liable to sicken or kill you...
omnivores like us(and the rat) a vast amount of brain space and time must be devoted to figuring out which of all the many potential dishes nature lays on are safe to eat... our inborn sense of disgust keeps us from ingesting things that might infect us... being a generalist is of course a great boon as well as a challenge; it is what allows humans to successfully inhabit virtually every terrestrial environment on the planet...
omnivory offers the pleasure of variety... but the surfeit of choice brings with ati a lot of stress and leads to a kind of manichaean view of food, a division of nature into the good things to eat, and the bad.
(pollan,the omnivore's dilemma. toronto: penguin group, 2007. p3-4)
similar to physical poison, one can tune into the potential mental poison i think. we dont like bitterness (alkaline) nor pick up gross, discoloured meat (bacterial poisoning scenario). sometimes if one look attentively, one may see a potential mental poisoning and go around it. like many plants, the mental poisons sometimes need to be left alone; interestingly many common poisonous plants are toxic only in selected parts and times- like tulip bulbs. please dont eat them. but if you want, i bet you could eat some petals without suffering. only a very few of them are entirely poisonous.
so, once the source of poison is identified, then one can take appropriate action, whether it be waiting (like planting that evil-looking potato and waiting to harvest the new potatoes in somewhat far future), limited or selective utilization of a plant (you dont have to eat oleander leaves, please, there will be suffering, but do feel free to plant them as ornamental shrub) or avoidance (cut the shoots off and peel the skin). the difficulty is that sometimes it feels as if the world will collapse if you dont take care of the potential poison RIGHT NOW. funny enough, the poisoneous organisms such as dendrobates pumilio (strawberry poison frog), toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)or cicuta virosa(cowbane or hemlock), when left to themselves, poses no problem at all. only with coercion, such things may become a problem.
the parallel between various contexts of poison is colourful and interesting. it is so closely interwoven with my (and yes, yours as well) daily life (though it's rarely thought of)- both mentally and physically. and i should really take one experience to another and learn to leave a short distance to a potential coercion, to realize that there may be a chance in the future to remedy the situation. whatever the reason or cause may be of the present, often, it is wise to give it some time to mellow out; if meant to be, there'll be a way to sort things out- i just need to keep paying passive attention to the situation. it's only when an organism is threatened or forced by another, the interaction for both becomes harmful. to not forget, but to let it diffuse. and new potatoes are so much nicer than old, wrinkly and now peeled naked, once-had-eyes potatoes anyways.
im gonna youtube some poison videos, the american glam rock band stuff. really hilarious. as lowbrow it may be to some, i think this just may be the antidote i could use at this point. matching potential poisonous coercion with another poison. now. that's life. how eloquent. and ooer no worries for monkey, this passing thought on poison is fortunately not coerced. a mere amusement.