“To Boldly Go Where Liver Never Went Before.” A Fable

Liver cells have aspirations too, you know.

Once upon a time, two liver cells suddenly became self-aware. They soon found they had a lot in common — boredom with their dead-end jobs (making bile and filtering blood), contempt for liver cells from the other lobe, and a burning desire to better themselves. Their ardent conversations about how they saw the world, now that they were self-aware, awoke nearby cells, and soon they were a colony.

With breathtaking speed, they developed a culture. They posited evolution as a way of explaining how nature, over millennia of selecting the fittest, came up with, well, them — and then stopped selecting, its job complete. They invented a religion to explain why God, having all the options that He had, decided to establish communications with, well, them. And they never missed an opportunity to praise God for His good judgement.

Oh, and about those dead-end jobs; the liver cells figured out how to trap leukocytes and force them to do the liver cells’ jobs for them. The leukocytes couldn’t filter blood or make bile or do any of the other liver jobs as well as the liver cells, but it was judged to be close enough. Soon, a liver cell’s status depended on how many leukocyte slaves he possessed, and how much leisure time he had, and whether he lived, as everyone who was anyone soon did, in his own private tumor.

The liver cells learned to navigate the Blood Stream, and make maps, first of their nearby surroundings, then of their universe. But they still had a lot of time on their hands, so they invented entertainment, and trained their leukocytes not only to sing and dance for them, but to save for their private consumption the various intoxicants filtered from the blood, and soon most liver cells were blitzed most of the time.

They were doing great, but their home organ, the liver, was beginning to languish. Parts of it were no longer habitable, and there were rumors that God was thinking about a transplant. Most liver cells ignored the situation, declaiming if pressed that the liver had always provided them with a home and always would, so “laissez les bons temps rouler.”

Others weren’t so sure, and put together the liver cells’ largest and most audacious project to date: an expedition to the heart, to determine 1) whether there was intelligent life there, and 2) whether it would be practical for the liver cells to move there.

Unfortunately the transplant operation took place before the expedition launched, and the self-aware liver cells live no more.


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5 Responses to “To Boldly Go Where Liver Never Went Before.” A Fable

  1. SomeoneInAsia says:

    There were some (self-aware) liver cells, you know, which (or who, rather) thought and taught that the highest and noblest purpose to which a liver cell can devote its existence is simply to forget its own existence altogether as a separate, distinct individual and live as one with God. Sadly their vision and ideas placed them pretty much in the minority, and before long were dismissed by the younger upstart liver cells as primitive thinking.

  2. Brutus says:

    I’ve missed the fabulous aspect somehow. Why liver cells? Why not some deep AI? I hesitate to ask you to explain it to me.

    Nevertheless, the work-by-proxy (or better, by fraud), the blissed out intoxication, and the resulting cultural amnesia are clear enough.

  3. Greg Knepp says:

    Language was the big killer. “In the beginning was the word”. It allowed primates to engage in individual and corporate discrimination – value judgements, if you will….or as recorded in The Word, “the knowledge of good and evil”.

    And how was this introduced?…By a talking snake!

    Yep, language…that was our downfall.

  4. Charlie says:

    Eukaryotes are still pissed about this turn of events.