Moths. One, two, three, twelve. I pause my midnight walk to observe them. They cluster and swarm the street lamp, casting tiny shadows onto the pavement below. I am unsure of what it is that they seek; maybe warmth, or light, or a familiarity to something in nature that they know only through instinct. Or maybe they seek safety in numbers. God knows how many predators they face. A stray cat lurking in the darkness. A nocturnal bird circling high above, waiting to devour the winged pests whole. I shiver at the thought. Brutal, but such is nature. Without food, like the moths, the birds and cats will starve, and populations will dwindle, and so on for the predators that hunt them. Even the greatest beasts rely wholly on this delicate food web. The survival of a great bear can be traced down to the success of a few microbes. Without the littlest and often least impressive participants, there would be no life to speak of at all. It’s fascinating, really— sort of like an intricate and vastly complex game of Jenga.
I turn my gaze to the dark, faceless windows in the houses near me and think: maybe the human psyche can be compared. After all, I believe it can be widely agreed upon that human beings are very complex things. What with all our politics, and game shows, and favorite brands of socks. So much goes into creating a person. But at the core of us all, we are just atoms and molecules, strung together in a million little building blocks of DNA that give rise to cells, tissues, and organs. Nearly 100 billion cells make up the human brain. These little things are responsible for how you perceive life. I am able to think these thoughts because of them, and am able to eat, speak, and breathe because of them. All good things; I should thank them sometime.
I sit then, feeling a bit woozy. Ah, for these cells can be responsible for bad things as well, can’t they? For instance, a chemical imbalance. A few cells stop doing their jobs and then— boom! The whole system is affected. You stop exercising. You eat and sleep too much, or too little. You withdraw from friends and family. You stop caring about your favorite brand of socks. You begin to drink too much. You may even stand on the edge of a bridge and find that jumping seems appealing.
Truly odd, isn’t it? How important the little things in a big system can be. Imagine what would happen if all the bugs in the world decided one day to stop being bugs, and to just drop dead. The chaos it would bring!
Test it out for yourself. Gather some friends and set up a game of Jenga, and then slap away all the pieces at the bottom of the tower before you begin. There will be no game to play, no tower at all, for it has nothing to stand on.
Really, I think, we are quite delicate creatures living in an equally delicate world. To exist is to be fragile. To become sentient you must realize that you can break, and will. You will live and then die. Presently there is no way around that. You will die because something small inside of you will break, and that break will grow, like a crack in a windshield. Like an unstable tower of blocks. Or maybe if you are a bug, you will just be eaten.
Ah, if only the moths could understand my thoughts. Perhaps they would be quite enlightened. I fancy they might say, “Stop with this nonsense, and go have another drink.” But I would retort, “Oh moths! Have you not thought of giving all of this up? This endless game of Jenga? You must grow weary of it!” They do not respond. They continue fluttering about, bouncing off of street lights as they do.
So I sigh, and burp, feeling quite unenlightened, and resume my walk.