“I am large, I contain multitudes.” —Walt Whitman
How, exactly, do I address you, Mixotricha paradoxa? The pronouns get caught in my throat. There’s the core of you—a paramecium sorta guy—but hairy. Those hairs, though, all quarter million of ‘em, are each tiny curlicue bacteria, other beings, rowing in synchrony, pushing you around that sludge inside the termite’s gut you call home. Who’s the coxswain? More little beasts live on your surface, others churn out energy inside, and all schlep together to help that termite digest wood. Are you four separate critters just hanging out inside another? Have you melded into one? Are you an I or a we? Are you contrived from genius, or spit out by random Darwinian thrusts of genes? And why in the world do you have your own Facebook page? How many people want to be your friend?