In the murky gloom of predawn, I consider parasites. Parasites deplete but do not replenish. The host gains nothing and in most cases incurs harm or loss. Given the lopsided nature of this arrangement, most hosts do not choose to be hosts. But there are some who willingly agree to these sometimes-temporary sometimes-deadly conditions. Parents, for example. Women during pregnancy. And God.
“I love a cheerful giver,” The Ultimate Host says. “So I try to live up to my own standards.”
“I appreciate that,” parasitic me says as I sidle up for a hug. It’s good to be grateful. Hosts are not easily replaced.
And I’m welcomed as I knew I would be. The lap of Ultimate Host is warm, innards glowing with love, her earth resplendent with abundance and beauty. I take heart because her planetary systems continue to spin, even as humans blithely carry on with their deadly extractions. She offers me hot chocolate and ginger snaps. I snuggle in.
“I think you’re oversimplifying your equations, honey,” Ultimate Host says.
I make an indeterminant noise and burrow in further.
“Of course, there are givers and takers in any given moment,” Ultimate Host continues. “But it goes far beyond the physical realm. If you weren’t on my lap right now, I’d be missing something. I’d be sad.”
“So, by taking warmth and comfort from you, I’m giving you something?”
“Yes,” Ultimate Host says. “Long ago, I chose to let creation matter to me.”
“That makes no sense,” I protest. “You’re beyond time and space, sufficient unto yourself.”
“It may seem that way, but I’m willingly defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.” God pauses, then adds, “And you exist in my image, defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice. You are both parasite and host.”
Ultimate Host wraps parasitic me in the finery of being alive. After a moment, in a firm voice, she says, “So what are you?”
Reluctantly, I say what I know she wants to hear. “I am both parasite and host. I am defined by consciousness, relationship, and choice.”
As daylight arrives, a gunshot startles me. It’s hunting season.
“I didn’t ask to be an omnivore,” I tell God as I get dressed.
“I know,” God says. “And I didn’t ask to be God.” I wonder if the bullet hit home and if the resulting meat will be eaten with thanks. I wonder about weapons and butchering and factory chickens, evil and good, taking and giving. I put on my down vest and head out to feed the piglets. They will be ecstatic. I have homegrown carrots to offer.