It is in sickness that we are compelled to recognize that we do not live alone but are chained to a being from a different realm, from whom we are worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might perhaps succeed in making him sensible of his own personal interest if not of our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like discoursing in front of an octopus, for which our words can have no meaning than the sounds of the tides, and with which we should be appalled to find ourselves condemned to live.The book I finished this morning, Lynn Margulis' Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution, is actively changing my view of almost everything I have read in the past. The work returns the excitement I first felt last year upon reading Carl R. Woese essay "A New Biology for a New Century." The world described in the book is in deep time and prior to the "Darwinian threshold" of multicellularity and the unification of sex (reproduction) with gene transfer. This is the real world. This is the Scholastic substance of animal life. And as there is darkness before and after being in time ("a brief crack of light between two eternities"), this microscopic world was there before mammalian life and will be there after it.
But Proust was right in a way to describe the sick body as something as alien as an octopus. Particularly the body being destroyed by a cancer. Cancer is a rebellion against the fascism of your human, cellular order. It is the body as an octopus, as something other than you are. The rebellion often ends in death.