Tag Archives: Armand Marie Leroi

Marginalia, no.256

Internally, however, we are no more symmetrical than snails.

~ Armand Marie Leroi, Mutants

They may have other faults, but snails do not deceive. Depending on its species, a snail’s shell will spiral either to right or left, like a hat worn at a tilt. We humans are less honest. We make an outward show of balance – two each of eyes, ears, nostrils, arms, legs, etc. – but declare allegiance with the gastropods by the arrangement of our innards: stomach, spleen, pancreas, liver and gallbladder. Most telling, the heart is off-center.

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Marginalia, no.251

Who marvels at a goiter in the Alps?

~ Juvenal

People in the Alps used to be famous for goiters, the result of too little iodine in the soil. In his final essay Montaigne quotes Juvenal’s line – not because he suffered from goiter, but because he suffered from kidney stones. Montaigne meant that he wasn’t surprised at getting sick because that’s just what happens to our sort of creature. The Swiss started the fashion for iodized salt in 1922, but here in the U.S. things were still a little Alpish into the late ‘70s. As children we were always seeing old ladies with goiters at the local grocery store.

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Marginalia, no.244

He believed that swallows hibernate at the bottom of lakes; that if the back of a puppy were rubbed with aquavit it would grow up dwarfed; and that Lapland was the home of a creature called the Furia infernalis, the Fury of Hell, that flew through the air without the aid of wings and fell upon men and cattle, fatally running them through.

~ Armand Marie Leroi, Mutants

If your eligibility for membership in the human species is ever challenged, the question is technically decided by whether you’re the same sort of creature that Carl Linnaeus was. One hundred and fifty years after his death the father of taxonomy was honored by being made the lectotype for homo sapiens. Take comfort then in the fact that for all his insight and intelligence Linnaeus still made laughable blunders. It means that your own mistakes affirm your humanity.

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