An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 14, 2009
Issued from the Siskiyou Mountains west of
Grants Pass, Oregon, USA

SUNLIGHT IN A
TORTOISESHELL'S WINGS

It's worth reflecting on the buzz I got seeing sunlight in a tortoiseshell butterfly's wings. After all, the image was no more than a novel blending of designs and colors, with sunlight-highlighted hues stimulating the eye's receptors more vigorously than usual.

What charmed me most was the butterfly's movements vividly seen in dazzling sunlight -- the twittering antenna, the probing proboscis, the twitching wings, the legs constantly testing for a securer foothold. Nothing could have been more alive than that butterfly.

Yet, everyday I see many insects and other creatures moving in similar ways. The difference is that at other times I'm not as focused as I was that day. I forget to look closely at things, even when I know that doing so makes me feel good. Human minds basically don't like to work too hard, plus they grow desensitized to any stimulus often repeated.

One insight flickering into my consciousness as I watched the tortoiseshell was that since it takes effort and a certain sense of self awareness to consciously slow down enough to really see, to remove oneself from distractions, and to focus intensely, at least a modest level of sophistication is required. Simple organisms and simple minds, or even sophisticated organisms and minds in communities not mature enough to offer its members the freedom to reflect in quiet moments, are too immersed in tasks of the moment to delight the way I did meditating on the tortoiseshell in brilliant sunlight.

Thus, delight of the kind I experienced with the tortoiseshell is reserved for evolutionarily advanced beings in mature community settings. This suggests that there is direction in our continuing evolution. And that direction is toward ever-greater sense of awe, understanding and sense of belonging -- of accepting full brotherhood with tortoiseshells aquiver in sparkling spring sunlight.

What a pleasure sensing that we are evolving toward that beautiful thing suggested by a butterfly being itself. Facebook Icon.