The Meaning of Lice

It’s a question that’s been asked for ages: what is the meaning of lice?

Some think the answer is simple: Lice are wingless insects of the order Phthiraptera, known to feed on human skin, blood, and sebaceous secretions.

Others think that the answer is more complex, deeper than what it seems, more difficult to understand.

I tend to fall into the latter group.

There is no easy answer, I think, to the meaning of lice. We are thrust into the world, independent of our choosing, and confronted with these parasitic creatures. No roadmap or manual to help us along

So, it’s tempting to despair at our situation. There’s nowhere to escape to. There’s no one to assuage our inflamed skin. Of course, we can also fight back. Pluck them off our scalps, burn them in the kitchen sink, comb them away from our thighs using specially medicated shampoo. But they always return. The battle does not end.

We are fated to struggle against lice. This is our reality. We must accept it. Though it drives many to question the very foundations of our greatest faith traditions. How did Buddha deal with itchy pests? Is it halal to bathe yourself in insect repellent? Why does Jesus like bugs so much?

And these are very good questions. We should not be afraid to reflect on the fundamental nature of lice. Many societies have crumbled because of a lack of interest in their invertebrate companions. We must turn away from ignorance. We must seek the truth. If we stop asking questions, then the powerful will rule without restraint. If we stop asking questions, then we’ll forget how it feels to be free of irritated scalps.

So what’s the meaning of lice? I don’t claim to know the answer. Maybe there is no meaning. Maybe we’re just born to search for meaning where there is none to be found.

Perhaps, we’re just here. And so are they. And sometimes our paths cross, for better or worse. But it’s a big planet. An even bigger universe. So let’s try to exist together, human and insect, mammal and parasite, person and creature. Let’s seek happiness for all, injustice for none, equal rights, fair pay, due process, forgiveness.

Maybe, we can give lice our own meaning. Perhaps it is simple. Deep but not complex. Difficult to embrace but easy to understand:

The meaning of lice is you. The meaning of lice is me. The meaning of lice is us.

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