Saturday, April 22, 2017

Today's MOZEN: Playing Opossum

F LoBuono
There was a recent post from a Facebook friend who was confronted with the "dilemma" of what to do with an opossum that was hiding under the shed in her backyard. She was frightened by its size and the fierce appearance of the animal (they have a mouth full of pointy teeth). She also feared that the creature would harm her dogs. So, of course, she elicited help from her Facebook friends. Most of the comments where of this variety:

They are such disgusting creatures. They creep me out! Lure it out of it's hiding place and blow it's friggin' brains out!!


Let's get a few things straight here. Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are indeed funky looking to say the least. Some would say that they are downright hideous. Even their name is not "normal": it's spelled with an "O" but is pronounced with a "P". And, they are marsupials, the most primitive class of mammals on earth. That means that have existed, virtually unchanged, for millions of years. And, THAT means they are very good at what they do.

And, what exactly IS it that they do - besides mess up our garbage cans?

Well, they do a great job of eating things that are really harmful to us - like ticks, devouring thousands of them each weak. They also consume other disease baring pests like mice and grubs. Obviously, this helps prevent the spread of diseases like lyme. And, they are SO non-violent that their only defense when attacked is to play dead (i.e. playing opossum). No, they won't be attacking anybody's dog soon.

In other words, despite how they LOOK, they are useful creatures worthy of our respect. So, why DO we see them as so loathsome?

This is typical of human nature. We tend to fear, and then reject, those things that are foreign and/or strange to us. Like the hideous monster of Frankenstein movie lore, we renounce the simple opossum simply because of its rather unpleasant appearance, without considering what the animal has to offer. They have dark, beady eyes, pointy teeth, a rat-like tail, and disheveled appearing fur. I mean, what's to like? But, the lesson is to look beyond our preconceived notions of how things should appear and concentrate on what they can contribute.

It is the same with people. Never decide something's or someone's worth solely by their appearance. Don't judge a book, a person, OR an opossum, simply by their appearance.

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