We are filled with punctures. Our bodies are pretty adept at protecting the holes in us, but there is one particular hole that is more vulnerable than all the others put together and gender and stature and economic state have no bearing on the witness of that virtuous hole.
In my recent article — A Mouthful of Alzheimer’s — I made this remark in the comments about the mouth being “the perfect delivery system” —
I was thinking about this yesterday, and our mouths are our most vulnerable hole. We bring the world in through our lips. We get cuts and bacteria and viruses and that opening is close to our brains, so the pathogen route — through infected teeth and gums — provides a straight line into the being of us.
The mouth has a few protections: A strong jaw, pursed lips, hard teeth, thick saliva and a febrile tongue — but are those defenses enough if the mind is unkind?
We push pills and booze and fried food into that vulnerability without much thought about the repercussions when those foreign totems land and I wonder why so many of us are so cavalier when it comes to managing the protection of our mouths against the threat to the rest of our bodies.
Willa Cather describes the beauty of our throats as the first, most natural, instance of a universal vase — and that makes me ponder why we treat the mouth of that vessel so poorly — as if the dangers of life are nothing more than something to be chewed on and swallowed whole.
Rarely do we reverse the flow into our mouths and sometimes we need to realize there is value in the spitting and in the retching that actually protects the mind of the body from the folly of mouths held agape against the swirling invasions around us.