Friday, 9 November 2007

A bucket of snakes

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

-Mark 16:15-18

On textual evidence it's unlikely that these verses are actually a part of the gospel of Mark. The surprising advice about picking up serpents and drinking poison is not found anywhere else in the gospels, although if we look for fulfilment of these words in the rest of the New Testament, Acts 28:1-5 is quite striking.

However, discretion being the better part of valour in the house of Cheng, I confine my snake-handling activities to the worms next to the rainwater tank by the side of the house. This morning it was raining so naturally I was out there with a bucket of vege scraps, poking around the worm farm and rearranging compost in the mud.

I lifted the non-functioning worm farm (the one that doesn't work, as opposed to the two that do) and discovered there a fistful of writhing worms, submerged in about an inch of water.

Now when you speak to worm people or read books about compost they will reassure you that worms, although they don't like water and will drown in it, can swim short distances and get themselves out of danger. You know, the sort of danger that would normally be represented by an inch deep puddle only short wriggles away from lovely loamy well drained soil where many of their worm companions live, or from the easily accessible functioning worm farm not 2 feet away.

But I have noticed this tendency for worms to plunge themselves lemming-like into puddles before; a Noachian redux that lies well within their capacity to avoid.

Anyone else observed this phenomenon? Any theories, fellow composters? Perhaps Mark 16:15-18 is somehow finding fulfilment, despite my shaky faith in the authenticity of these verses, and the non-viperous nature of these tiny serpents.

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