Purpose Statement

Exploration -> Experience -> Feeling -> Transformation -> Understanding

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Jerusalem Cricket




In the early 90's, I lived in a little duplex surrounded by avocado orchards in SoCal. We had a little doorless shack between the garage and house that housed the washer and dryer. One day I went into the shack and found the most bizarre insect on the floor. I was sure I had discovered a new life form. It looked like something from an aliens-invade-the-earth Hollywood movie and it looked dangerous. I was afraid of it and was certain it was deadly poisonous. I observed it from a distance for a while - it did not move with any sort of speed or agility - and then I smashed it in an instant with a shoe.


I don't recall when the feelings of guilt and remorse began, but sometime after the smashing, I became quite disappointed with myself. I think of myself as an explorer and an explorer courageously seeks out new experiences. I had found something new, something alive, and I had been afraid of it and smashed it.


Years later, I tried to show my nephew a spider's web on my sister's back porch. My nephew screamed and made a hysterical, irrational, panicked retreat. I suppose this is how we protect children from Black Widows and Brown Recluses - We make them terrified of spiders.

When I was my nephew's age, I went fishing alone on the shore of Lake Travis in the middle of the day. The fish were not biting, so I entertained myself by breaking limestone rocks, using big rocks to smash smaller rocks. I was using my right arm to break the rocks to the right of where I was sitting on the ground. I turned my attention to the left to grab more rocks and saw, not twelve inches from my left hip, a black snake, his head pointed right at me. Panic overwhelmed me. I threw the rock in my right hand at the snake, leaped up and ran screaming, bawling, completely hysterical up the hill to my mother, who gave me sips of iced tea to calm me down. My father and I revisited the place to recover my fishing pole and found no snakes.

I don't recall the reference I used to research the strange creature in the laundry room, but at some point I concluded that it was a Colorado Potato Beetle that I had smashed. It turns out it was actually a Jerusalem Cricket. Isn’t the internet great?

Yesterday I did a 100 mile bike ride between Elko, NV and Mountain City, ID. On my way back to Elko, I happened to look down at the asphalt, and there in the worn track of the passenger side tires was a Jerusalem Cricket. I wheeled back around and stopped my bike to look at the creature. It still looked bizarre, but not nearly as scary or threatening. In that moment, I confronted all my emotional history with this species and my sense of myself as an explorer. I had a decision to make. Would I do nothing, leave the creature alone, or would I move it off the highway so it would not be squashed by the next pickup truck?

I leaned my bike against a post and picked up a piece of litter, a plastic bottle, scooped the insect up and deposited it in the grass and sagebrush.

As I rode away, I thought about human potential and our ability to grow, evolve, and transform. I wanted to be redeemed, but I knew that I was not. The archetype of The Explorer that I carry in my soul is absolutely courageous and fearless, insatiably curious, reverent of life and awed by nature. It is an ideal I will never reach, but I will continue to evolve toward it.

Buddha says that with realization, all our karma is wiped away and Jesus says that we are already forgiven. And yet I know that the next time I encounter something new and scary, I will be afraid. But perhaps instead of running away hysterical or smashing the unknown with a shoe, I'll sit and wait patiently for my fear to subside and my curiosity to build.

1 comment:

aspyre said...

"I'll sit and wait patiently for my fear to subside and my curiosity to build."

Brilliant. You continue to inspire & cause me to examine life differently.

I am writing this on my wall, with your permission.