Advice from the Ground Beetles

Confidence of cave-dwelling carabid.

You can hurry, but it won’t get you anywhere. You were way too late for this prologue’s conclusion, and still want to rush. We are the stagehands you missed, ushering the deaths you wouldn’t stand.

It’s not the worst, really, to let others make a punchline of your life, like Where have you been, under a rock all this time? As a matter of fact, you can tell them––or not, cleaning your sensors with smooth precision.

I don’t want to frighten you, but let’s face it; it doesn’t take much. We live in the settings of your nightmares. No one knows you better than the one who recognizes what you refuse––I won’t say, to look at. You really ought to consider your bias toward sight, along with a few other favorite metaphors. Look at the river of life, you say, let’s jump in! From the places you call nowhere and not yet, we laugh and call back, you first! ––which is always your preference anyway.

Any beetle can tell you about all the cries in the dark, but that doesn’t mean you will listen. So much grief in these places, but we’ve been here all along. We get a lot of tourists on quests, looking for a dragon to slay. Sure, we tell them, go farther, and then get back to our invisible work, laughing.

Do you have a friend who studies eyesight, who can talk at length about degrees of vision? The word vision suggests blindness all by itself. A person’s aspirations will tell you a lot about their fears. 

Please don’t expect a welcome every time you come back. As a matter of fact, you should try to go missing. Let them call you extinct, finished. We’ve been doing this for twenty million years, but the newcomers can’t help themselves. There’s a new announcement every few decades about how they’ve discovered us––again.

Every seed spends many nights in the earth, and what does this tell you about the dangers you presume of obscurity? Kid, you’re kind of a drag the way you go around trying to illuminate everything. That’s enough now, out with your light.

From this darkness, there will be no forgiveness for someone who refuses to meet it on its own terms. 

***

Over this morning’s coffee, I learned that today is the birthday of the Croation entymologist Josef Müller (1880-1964) who is best known for his extensive study of blind cave-dwelling ground beetles. I can only imagine that one would be compelled to shift perspective away from certain popular biases after spending so much time with any often-disregarded species, especially those that are regularly rediscovered after presumed extinction. The idea inspired me to play again with certain phrases and turns from Robert Bly’s “Advice from the Geese,” an exercise from The Daily Poet that I enjoyed very much when I first used it to make “Advice from the Silver Mollies” for Bly’s birthday.

In Light of the Question of What Comes Next

There are dangers to remaining in isolation, however protective and necessary it has been before.

It’s spring 2021, and it’s graduation season at many campuses. In many parts of the world, there is a sense of emerging from a long isolation along with a shared sense of our collective fragility. Questions hang in the air and one of these is “What’s next?”

You have endured the waiting, wrestled with the inevitable demons that emerge in isolation, in a period of study, in axial times. You have put in long hours listening, learning, reading, practicing. You have revisited and revised: hopes, frustrations, longings, and of course, the work itself. I know of no other way to think of it than the Art of Being Here: as a person, protective of life in all forms and concerned about the mechanisms of its destruction. There is a time for the protection of the ecosystem necessary to cultivate a private practice of learning, listening, reading, hoping, longing, wondering and making. And then, it’s graduation season, and it’s warm outside, and you start to notice again what it means when the season shifts, and you realize that there are dangers to remaining in isolation, however protective and necessary it has been before. The danger is that it denies breath to the fundamental human impulse: to offer up. To say, “Here. I made this. Perhaps it can help you, too.” To remember how our making selves are the versions closest to our divine nature, and to offer these up is an act of bowing to the divine nature of others, by carrying one’s tiny flame in shaking hands, into dark spaces: to extend it to the wick of another, in the moments after the storm has blown it out. 

To the writers, artists, thinkers, and children who have given their light in ways that were meaningful and visible to me when I could see no other, I bow to you.