Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What I’ve learned from the dung beetle

I've been missing self-imposed blog deadlines. This is usually a sign that there is too much else going on and that I've lost some focus. For me, the stuff that ‘goes on’ is managing health issues, family, working and well…in general… life. When I reflect on this, I realise that not writing, even in small amounts, impacts my mood in a negative way. It’s like there is damming up of ideas, a kind of creative constipation. So when I happened across Entomologist Marcus Bryne’s short video ‘The Dance of the Dung Beetle’, I had an epiphany of sorts. The video is a humorous and fascinating look at this intrepid and persistent creature’s effort to ‘scoop the poop’ in the midst of strong competition and the harsh desert environments.

Most of this bug’s life is conducted in backwards motion (we all know that feeling). But here’s the difference: when he’s thrown off course or disoriented in some way (like by the experimenters who deliberately thwart his route), he climbs to the top of his dung ball, does a little dance using the sun as a point of reference, reorients himself, climbs down and goes on. He knows exactly where he has to go. He keeps the goal in sight even though he’s heading towards it with his butt in the air. It was kind of humbling to realise that here is a creature that lives its whole life in excrement yet it doesn’t sit by bemoaning that fact that life is…well… full of s#*t.

In the video, Byrne explains that the dung beetle uses a complex set of visual clues to keep him life on track. He wonders if it can teach humans how to solve complex visual problems. While I was interested in that aspect, I took a different lesson from the bug's behavior, which was this: it’s possible for life to be full of poop but I can still get on with it. So, I figured that next time I feel like the s#*t is piling up, I can climb to the top of the dung, look to the warmth and nurture of the sun, do a dance (dancing on the inside is acceptable for humans) then push the crap along and just keep going. Persistent pays and every time, the beetle managed to reach his goal regardless of obstructions and distractions.

After that realization, my creative constipation seemed to resolve. I don’t doubt it will come back from time to time but for now I've managed one more blog, which is a start.