November 27, 2014

To Serve Man

That, of course, is the classic Twilight Zone episode (hilariously retold as "Hungry are the Damned" in The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror I).

The title comes from a book by an advanced alien race that has conquered Earth with supposedly the best intentions in mind. A lone linguist persists in translating the substance of the book, too late discovering that "To Serve Man, it's--it's a cookbook!"

As Rod Serling's closing narration puts it,

Or more simply stated, the evolution of man. The cycle of going from dust to dessert. The metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone's soup. It's tonight's bill of fare from The Twilight Zone.

"Sooner or later, we'll all be on the menu--all of us." Which is true, biologically speaking. Consider, for example, the 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut. While you're alive, they strengthen

the immune system and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract, all in exchange for a constant food supply. But when you die, your friendly gut flora quickly become your gut foe. Without food, the microbes escape your GI tract through the circulatory system and spread to your other organs, feeding on your dying cells and colonizing your body.

In other words, kicking the bucket makes us the main course. Reading this, I recall that in the Twelve Kingdoms, when a kirin dies, his shirei (servant beasts) get to eat him. Sort of a quid pro quo thing for getting bossed around their whole lives.

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# posted by Anonymous Anonymous
11/01/2016 4:56 AM   
Fascinating. I remember reading that short story back in middle school, and the final punchline "it's a cookbook." always stuck with me. (I didn't realize it was a famous work for a long time either, because it was in the school's textbook.) To be honest, it is a story that depresses me as the years roll by, ever since I crawled out of my sheltered childhood and got a look at the society around me.

Your take on it, mentioning the bacteria and the shirei, is really interesting though. Gives me a new perspective that is rather amusing.