Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Just Like the Butterflies

"An intriguing entomological experiment shows that a male butterfly will ignore a living female butterfly of his own species in favor of a painted cardboard one, if the cardboard one is big. If the cardboard one is bigger than he is, bigger than any female butterfly ever could be. He jumps the piece of cardboard. Over and over again, he jumps the piece of cardboard. Nearby, the real, living female butterfly opens and closes her wings in vain."
-Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

I came across this passage today, this very, very interesting passage. And my first thought was, well of course! How like a man!!! After all, how many men have we seen that are just like the butterflies? And you know, exactly, what I mean. I often feel like I am the real, living female butterfly, sitting nearby, opening and closing my wings in vain, while the men around me jump the pieces of cardboard; the big, phony, empty, fakes.

But then it occurred to me, how much I am also like this. Indeed, how much we all are like the butterflies. This world that we live in, it's beautiful. Today, the sun is shining, the sky is a beckoning shade of blue, flung full of softly blazing clouds. All day long, I have been dazzled by this day. But how much more often am I dulled to the days? How much time have I wasted (and indeed, I continue to waste my time) by jumping the piece of cardboard, the worries, the distractions, the superficial and artificial, merely because the cardboard is bigger? It commands more of my attention. It seems to requires more of my mental energy. It appears to be so much more real, substantial. But it's a big, phony, empty fake. It's cardboard! The real, living day is waiting to steal my attention and leave me gasping for breath. It requires more mental energy than I am capable of. It is what is real, and substantial and it is calling me to more. Yet again and again, I find myself jumping the cardboard. And all the while, the day, this day, sits nearby and all around me, beating its wings and beckoning me in vain.