Sunday, February 26
the loneliness of the hard-working dung beetle
I like dung beetles. And I mean really like – a dung beetle pushing a ball of dung is on my short list for tattoo number three. (If that seems gross to you just refer to it as a scarab – oh yes, it's suddenly so noble!) They are a nice shape. They represent intense transformation. They seem sincere and comical at the same time, and I relate to that. And then there's the whole without them we would be drowning in poop factor.
I just watched a documentary about insects. It showed a lone scarab earnestly bumbling her large perfect sphere of dung over hard dry terrain. Could she get it over that bump? Could she? Eventually, yes.
But then she shoved it soundly onto a barbed thorn protruding from the ground, and it stuck. It stuck real good. (Please, producers, tell me you didn't place it there. Isn't life hard enough as it is?) She pushed. She pushed again. She came around and pushed from the other side. No budging. Then she came back around and dug into the ground, giving her more leverage to shove, and yes, eventually, again, she was on her way.
Her plight made me think: Sometimes it is good that our work is lonely. Not the panicked bottomless pit of despair kind. There is a good lonely, the kind where you know that no one else can solve your problems so you don't waste any time hoping or fretting. You just keep switching positions, nimbly, without drama or pity, strategizing and doing the next thing that might work. The world surrounds you, neutral to your plight, throwing up the occasional thorn but mostly just waiting to see what you will do with what you've got. Good lonely still has sadness but it is containable.
And of course there is no guarantee that we'll get our proverbial dung balls un-wedged from our thorns. But when we are immersed in the good lonely we create results (finished work, processes, connections, inventions, etc) that could only have come from us. And those results, even when they are failures, move us forward in ways that cannot be measured or taken back. I'll repeat that for my own sake: even when they are failures they move us forward. The solo undertaking that connects us to the state of good-loneliness can keep us on our path. And where else do we want to be?