Life Is for the Livers
Lately, I’ve been pondering some of the Big Questions—Why are we here? What comes next? Where, exactly, is “here,” anyway? and the like—as each of us is wont to do from time to time, if I may speak for all of us. I used to find these questions frustrating in the extreme, in large part because I like having answers... but these days, instead of banging my metaphorical head against the symbolic wall, I call to mind something somebody, possibly a girl I know, an actual medical doctor, once told me:
The liver cell doesn’t know anything outside of the liver. (She might have said “kidney cell” and “kidney”; the analogy is unaffected.) The liver cell does not know that there are other organs in the human body. The liver cell knows only that it needs to do its job so that the liver will work properly. But that’s enough for that cell to “know,” because the other organs are made up of cells thinking and doing the same thing, and in that manner the body will be healthy. Maybe God, or whatever you’re looking for, is like a human body—and humanity is like His liver. So just be the best liver cell you can be and everything will work out fine.
Heavy stuff, right? But it just makes sense. Each of us should, in fact, be the best darned liver cell we can be, so that God’s liver will be healthy. And here’s how to do it:
- As an initial matter, although the technical term for a cell of the main tissue of the liver, which combined make up 70-85% of the liver’s cytoplasmic mass, is hepatocyte, don’t think of yourself as a hepatocyte, which is too “scientific” a word and will alienate you from your peers. Think of yourself as a “liver cell.” Practice humility. Resist indulging in delusions of grandeur. Eschew Latin/diverte Latine.
- Next: The typical liver cell has a volume of just 3.4 x 10-9 cm3. It’s very small, in other words. After all, there are thousands, maybe even millions, of cells in an average-sized liver, just as there are already more than seven billion people on Earth. So don’t take up more room than you need, if you can help it. On the subway, for instance, don’t put your bag or newspaper on a second seat. Also, try not to be obese... notwithstanding that the liver forms fatty acids from carbohydrates and synthesizes triglycerides from fatty acids and glycerol. (On a related note: Liver cells display an eosinophilic cytoplasm, reflecting numerous mitochondria, and basophilic stippling due to large amounts of rough endoplasmic reticulum and free ribosomes. Do that. )
- Actual liver cells have a variety of functions in the body—unlike, say, cells of the tongue (used for tasting) or cells of the brain (used for thinking). One set of related functions of liver cells is the detoxification, modification, and excretion of exogenous and endogenous substances—which might sound difficult, but really isn’t. In plain English, it means that liver cells metabolize drugs. So you should metabolize drugs. To metabolize drugs, you need to take drugs. So take drugs.
- Make things! Liver cells manufacture serum albumin, fibrinogen, and the prothrombin group of clotting factors (except for Factors 3 and 4). You don’t have to manufacture serum albumin, fibrogen, and the rest... but the more things you do make, so much the better a “liver cell” you’ll be: Write books; compose symphonies; build buildings; program websites; construct ships; scrapbook; erect monuments; fabricate elaborate lies; mount productions; make believe; make noise; make a mess; make out; make love; make do; make up; make way!
- Finally: Store bile. Bile—also known as “gall”—is, physiologically speaking, a bitter-tasting, dark green to yellowish brown fluid that aids the process of digestion. Bile is a composition of water, bile salts, mucus and pigments, fats, and inorganic salts. But more to our point, bile is anger. So be angry. Be very, very angry, as often as you can be. About anything and everything. But do not allow your anger to escape haphazardly. Stockpile your anger. Hoard your gall. Keep it contained... until such time as you meet a man (or woman, even) named Billy Rubin (or Reuben), at which point you can and should release your bile. (Bilirubin is a byproduct of red blood cells recycled by the liver.)
This is my philosophy. It can be yours, too. And perhaps together we can make humanity the most healthy, the most... vital organ in the whole stupid Universe.
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.
Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.