February 12, 2013
The Death of a Moth ResponsePeople compartmentalize their lives; placing things in categories makes it easier. We make our own proverbial window frames to fly back and forth between like Virginia Woolfe’s moth. The biggest problem with these frames is you can’t always see quite where they are. A part of me wonders where my frame is. But figuring that out is scary, jumping into a boundless ocean. Yet Virginia Woolfe’s moth flutters, “from side to side of his square of the window-pane” (Woolfe 174). “That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of the houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea” (Woolfe 174). The moth had no reasoning or capability to understand the limitations of the window pane, “What he could do he did” (Woolfe 174).
The first thing I always ask before beginning something new is, “How do I do it?” I have a crippling fear of failure at times. I like lists, steps, instructions, and do-it-yourself manuals. At times, I sit and wonder what I miss because of it. The world—196 countries, countless cultures, untold adventures—is my oyster, or so I’ve been told. It lies outside my window, beyond my limited view of the taupe and speckled wall of the college dormitory so many will limit their greatest life experiences too. Still, consider the moth, “little or nothing but life” (Woolfe 174).
“It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zigzagging to show us the true nature of life” (Woolfe 174). What, possibly, does the true nature of life have to do with almost careless flight? After all, zigzagging is not efficient and everyone knows the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line. But is it the most worthwhile way? I am a dreamer by nature—the love of lists a result of my tendency to over-react to faults and fall off the other side of the horse. I become “apt to forge all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered so that it has to move with the greatest circumspection and dignity” (Woolfe 174). Throwing off dreams as irrelevant, I get lost in a mound of papers and tests and textbooks and coffee cups in pursuit of the hallowed ‘A.’ There is a certain drudgery in walking to 8 AM classes, and a definite dullness to grocery shopping. The shimmering quality of life is lost in the midst of stale-Styrofoam coffee and 7:50 AM and half-cartons of milk for $2.49.
What is the point of all of it, then? The Bible commands believers over and over again to be thankful. G.K. Chesterton said, “gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” There is something to the moth and his propensity to live well and excitedly and thankfully. It is true a moth can be neither excited nor thankful, but it can live, and I maintain living well and as we ought is the best form of thankfulness. This require a mentality shift: to recognize that 7:50 AM is the only time that day the baseball field glitters with cold as the sun, with its own iridescent quality, slowly melts away the frost. Grocery shopping is possibly a beautiful thing allowing me to drive in silence and notice, for a moment, the velvety hills caught behind the haze of late afternoon. I still haven’t figured out the wonder in coffee cups, except for acknowledging coffee as a means of God’s grace to finish homework.
Back to the beginning: my need to know how to do things. As much as I want understand the window frame I’m flying within, I can’t. Most of the worthwhile things in my life right now aren’t coming with instruction manuals. But the zigzag flights of life are more fun than understanding the steps from point A to point B. I never want it said of me that I didn’t value or keep life well.