Archives For Formaldehyde

First of all, they may be right. If everyone tells you you’re crazy, you should be concerned. Especially if those you trust the most are convinced you’re unhinged, you should probably be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

However, even when you are 100%, bona fide sane, you may have to deal with the misperception that there is something off kilter in your perceptions or behavior. It happened to me.

I’m not too concerned, since there are even maniacs out there who consider C.S. Lewis to be a tad daft due to his counter-cultural (i.e., Christian) views.

In an article measuring his legacy a half century after his death, James Como said, Lewis’ “long and unrelenting resistance [to civilization’s decline] yields a commanding perspective that is not only not cultural, not only not trans-cultural, not only not merely counter-cultural, but almost anti-cultural; in a word it is supra-cultural . . .”

Surely Lewis’s sharp-shooter’s application of the phrase “enemy-occupied territory” to Western culture must come to mind.  Of course, from inside the culture, it is Lewis who must seem crazy: if not quite as febrile as  Jeremiah out there in the wilderness, surely close enough?  And so his genius – the application of his transcending individuality – is to present us with a choice: in or out?  We, with Lewis, might escape, leaving the Zeitgeist behind.

I’m with Lewis, which I understand makes me suspect in the eyes of the worldly. But it’s not my faith that has caused me to be labeled as crazy for many decades, even by family members whose love for me is beyond question.

It’s all about that despicable herb some people sickeningly regard as delicious – cilantro. As early as I can remember, I would sometimes have a meal where I found a dish had been contaminated by soap. It was horrible. Not just unpalatable, but inedible.

Everyone would praise the food and call me crazy. Especially when I told them why it tasted so bad. It was because it tasted like the chefs had grated a bar of soap over the meal. They would all laugh, look at each other with that “he can’t be serious” expression, and resume their dinner. Meanwhile, I’d basically go hungry, since I was unwilling to eat the perfectly “good” food.

After many years, as an adult, I finally was able to analyze the problem and identify the culprit as cilantro. This did not, unfortunately, restore my mental credibility. Now everyone was certain I was insane, because the whole world knows cilantro is delicious! My case was weakened by the fact that I thought the seeds of the plant, coriander, were just fine. Ahah! That inconsistency proved to them that I was faking my dislike for some unknown reason.

During the decades that followed, I would try to avoid the herb. Occasionally I would bite into something only to unexpectedly encounter the dreaded flavor of a bar of soap. If it was minor, like mixed very lightly into the salsa, I could force myself to ignore, but it was still there, robbing me of the opportunity to really savor my meal.

If I mentioned that I had tasted the cleansing residue, I’d get the familiar quizzical looks and drop the subject. Until one glorious day when one of the other people at the table said, “it tastes like soap to me too.” And I learned they too had lived under the stigma of being a nutcase.

Over the years (I’m not young), I encountered a number of like spirits who shared my alleged dementia. I delighted in assuring them they were not alone. Like most people who truly are crazy, we had learned to try to mask our aberrant tastes and blend in with the cilantro-enamored masses . . . lest we be treated as outcasts.

Still, I wondered why only a small number of people shared my experience, when the taste is so pronounced it can taste literally like biting into a bar of Ivory.

Thank God, I was finally rescued by genetic scientists. Per Brittanica, “for those cilantro-haters for whom the plant tastes like soap, the issue is genetic. These people have a variation in a group of olfactory-receptor genes that allows them to strongly perceive the soapy-flavored aldehydes in cilantro leaves.”

And, in a related article, they warn about one member of the aldehyde-family you will want to steer clear of: “formaldehyde (HCHO), also called methanal, an organic compound, the simplest of the aldehydes.”

Pure formaldehyde is a colourless, flammable gas with a strong pungent odour. It is extremely irritating to the mucous membranes and is associated with certain types of cancer in humans and other animals. Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).

Cilantrophiles be warned. It may be cilantro is just a gateway aldehyde. Now who’s the crazy one? The lesson – don’t be hasty in judging the mental acuity of others. (With the single exception for contemporary Americans, who feel compelled to say the absolute worst about anyone who has different political opinions.)

On a serious note, actual mental illness is no joke. Whether it’s genetic, accidental, or degenerative, it can destroy the life of the victim and all those who care about them. If you don’t have any acquaintances suffering in this manner, there are plenty of places you can volunteer to serve these various communities.

Providing love and encouragement to others is always admirable. When we do so for those unable to “repay” us in any way, it’s doubly rewarding. Jesus had something to say about that, and you can read it in Matthew’s Gospel.