Lent Project Day 21: Pearls

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio. An old woman with her hands holding her head and her eyes closed in exasperation.

Everyone knows someone who is always ready with a fun Useless Fact. One that you sometimes hear is that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. This isn’t true – first of all it’s 8 muscles, and even as a group, that’s just not true. I mean, I guess it depends on what you mean by strong.  Your tongue helps you speak and eat (and rub the back of your throat and palate when you have allergies that pluck on your last unshattered nerve. Uh. Or that last bit may just be me. That’s certainly possible). The muscles around your eye do hundreds of thousands of coordinated movements to help you get through your day – reading, focusing on the movement in the periphery, searching for your phone that’s lost somewhere. A uterus can expel a baby and then shrink back to pre-baby size very soon after. Both of those things require strength, but you’re not going to lift a car off a child with your eyes or your uterus, now are you? I mean, not that you’re going to do it with your tongue, either.

Last week, I went to the dentist to have a proto-cavity (a not quite fully formed cavity that we want to fill before it rots the tooth). Before the freezing came out, I bit my tongue. And boy-howdy, for a big tough muscle, a little bite can cause an inordinate amount of discomfort. And you end up spending a whole week trying to not bite it again while it heals. It’s kind of like a pebble in your shoe or the making  lemonade method for determining if you have a papercut. For the size of the irritant, it can definitely skew your mood in an unholy way

Irritation is a fact of life. Whether it’s the vehemence with which someone chews their food, the task that you can’t complete to your satisfaction, or the driving skills of your fellow commuters, everyone knows how your day changes because of an irritant.

I was thinking about how a pearl starts as an irritant like a parasite or implanted piece of mother of pearl (not a grain of sand, as is also commonly believed) in an oyster’s delicious, delicious softbits. The oyster covers the irritant with fluid that hardens into the lustrous pearl. It’s kind of like how your body creates a sheath around the irritant from that time you brushed your hand against the cactus and couldn’t pull out the cactus slivers. I mean, theoretically, if one were to do such a thing.

This Lent, may my irritable encounters produce more pearls than bad mood.

Extra Credit:

I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!

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