Everybody loves the idea of a caterpillar. The nearly rabid fervor over these unremarkable, oozing worms is not about who they are, of course, but who they will become. With just a two-week spa retreat and silk wrap, this plump and ordinary slug reemerges as a magnificent flying spectacle of extraordinary delight. It’s a metaphorically appealing metamorphosis.
If you don’t like bugs, as I don’t, and see them more as tiny monsters than as a fascination, as I do, there is the alternative transformation of the ugly ducking. Rejected by the pack, the ostracised swan is actually far more beautiful…
Back when everyone hunted and gathered for a living, no one worked for the money, or the weekend, because neither existed. The point of every job was to make other people’s lives better. Workers earned not only a just living but, more importantly, secure inclusion in the power and safety of the group. Everyone who did their share enjoyed the security and advantages of true belonging. Those who didn’t were cast out and soon eaten by hyenas.
When I was twenty-one, my mom was murdered. Yep, this is a hell of an opening line, and probably even more so for me since I don’t talk about it a lot. At least, I haven’t so far. But I want to change that.
After I got that devastating phone call, I was completely numb for a few months. I couldn’t process it. Over the following few years, the pain eased, but I still didn’t do much processing. I didn’t hold my mother close to me or talk to her spirit like people do in books and movies. …
As if it wasn’t enough that we have to deal with the uncomfortable awareness of our own mortality, we’re also damned to reckon with this preposterously inexplicable, physics-and-mind-bending universe, brazenly stretching to infinity in all directions.
I’d be delighted to attribute the whole thing to an organized and purposeful God who has created it all for our benefit. But I haven’t quite been able to pull that off, leaving me with a disconcerting sense that it’s probably all as random and purposeless as it appears.
I’ve spent most of my life trying to prove that I’m worthwhile. And the rest of it asleep.
I don’t know why it’s always been like this. It feels like I’m forever starting the race hours after the gun, desperately hoping simply to finish before the maintenance staff locks up the stadium and goes home.
We literally come into the world tethered to another person. Usually, there are doctors, nurses, fathers, doulas, and other assorted bystanders there too.
And when we die, there are frequently people there as well, sometimes holding our hand as we pass.
Still, my mom used to repeatedly chant the mantra that “we come in alone and go out alone.” Throngs of other people say the same thing even though it’s extraordinarily untrue.
My life has been filled with emotional struggles. So have a lot of people’s. Life is hard. Yet we smile and insist we’re fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attacking the common courtesy of not dumping a cartload of crap-packed baggage on the first moment of an encounter. (However, a trusting pause and reassuring “hanging in there” might be a better automatic answer to the question of how we’re doing.)
Looking out for “number one,” is the default directive of the plant and animal kingdoms. So it’s not a shock that this knee-jerk reflex turns up in people. But, as Richard Dawkins insightfully pointed out, “number one” doesn’t refer to individuals, but to genes.
In a surprisingly large number of organisms, Dawkins’ selfish genes flip the dog-eat-dog world on its floppy ears, and create individuals who look out for each other, even at their own expense. Mostly, this occurs in ants, bees, wasps, and a few other bugs. …
One of the giant questions we all face is why we’re here. This is no trivial matter since the ultimate purpose of life gives us our sense of direction, and an inaccurate answer can lead us far astray.
Some of us get a bye on the question with the ready-made answer that God plopped us here. But even for those lucky enough to believe in one Almighty Creator or another, this answer really isn’t an answer at all since it begs the question of why in God’s name God would do such a thing.