Getting out of the shower after a long trail run in the woods, I felt a sharp pain in my back, right between the shoulder blades. Craning my neck and looking awkwardly in the mirror, I saw a red splotch with a tiny black dot in the middle and instantly knew what it was: a tick.

The little monsters are everywhere this time of year, especially with all the rain we’ve been getting. And it was in the one spot on the human body that, no matter which way you reach around, you can’t get to. Human evolution in its infinite wisdom. And my wife wasn’t due home until that evening. Shit.

I wondered what a Buddhist monk would do at a time like this? Probably go into a trance and will the thing off. Unfortunately, I’m no Zen master or Jedi knight, for that matter. Just a neurotic dude with a blood-sucking critter burrowing into his back and injecting God knows what diseases into his bloodstream.

Could I wait six or seven hours for the wifey to come home? No way. Just the thought creeped me out. I had to get it off me. I tried everything I could get my hands on: tweezers, scissors, even the tool we use to get ticks off our dogs. Nothing worked.

Even a full frontal assault on a tick doesn’t always work without leaving its hairy little head stuck inside. And I couldn’t see what I was doing or get the leverage I needed. All I succeeded in doing was pissing it off and cutting up my back.

So I rubbed up against a hanging towel, squirted some liquid disinfectant on it, and threw on an old t-shirt so the blood stains would look right at home. I did eventually forget about the thing until my wife came home and took care of it.

The whole bizarre episode got me thinking about why we never evolved eyes in the back of our heads and fully rotating limbs. It’s not a genetic screwup; we were made to go forward. To look forward. To think forward. To move forward. In forward mode we can be graceful, amazing, brilliant. Backward, we’re awkward at best, except for figure skaters.

The only real value of looking back is to learn from the results of our actions, as experiments that either succeeded or failed. Otherwise, we’re better off in forward mode: living in the here and now while planning and working for a better future. That’s the way we’re built.

Also we’re not at our best or brightest when we’re irritated.

Image credit Nikki McLeod via Flickr