Why humans are greater than moths

By Phil Grech | gargoyle@flagler.edu

I came home on a rather warm first day of spring, opened the fridge, and poured a glass of water from my Brita water filter.  I put the water back in the fridge, but my reckless, Dionysian passions do not always allow me to place the water back in the fridge gently. Sometimes I thrust it back in the fridge as though I were doing it against the water’s will. As a result, water spills on the floor of the fridge and I get around every year or so to wiping it up.

When I placed the water back in the fridge, I noticed a moth was caught in the water that lay on the bottom. The moth writhed and wrangled about, wanting to escape and wasting toward decay, its wings too damp to fly away. He (assuming the moth is a male; determining moth sex is presumably a difficult procedure) must have gotten in there when I opened the fridge and he was attracted to my impressively bright refrigerator light.

I watched as the moth inched closer to death (particularly cruel to any insect rights proponents). It only took about a minute, but eventually, the moth stopped moving, gave in, took its last little moth breath into its little moth lungs and called it a life. I am assuming here that these were the moth’s final breaths. Checking a moth’s pulse is admittedly problematic and not a procedure I am trained in, but at the time of writing, the moth still lays there, on his back, either relaxing and enjoying the cool air on a warm spring day, or just dead. Probably dead.

No person would feel particularly moved by this. I doubt you or I would have to take a moment to sit on the couch to ponder the meaning and purpose of this moth’s existence. We would not contemplate the sadness of the fact that this moth put in months of training to become some super-moth, but now all of that has become nonsense after a freak refrigerator accident. Of course not. It’s a moth.

We behave differently, however, when human beings die in freak water accidents inside of refrigerators. But let us not even confine ourselves to such rare circumstances. When humans meet untimely deaths, we feel a sense of loss, no matter the cause. We mourn these deaths. We recognize the absence of an important human existence.

Hopefully, we will all have a death met by the mourning of loved ones, in the sense that we have hopefully surrounded ourselves with kind, loving people who care about us and would therefore feel at a loss when we pass (as opposed to us simply wanting to be mourned to posthumously gratify our pride’s desire).

It seems apparent then that we should probably do what we can to maximize the purpose and utility of our life. We have strong, capable hands. We have bright, brilliant minds. Why should these things be wasted on something we do not find fulfilling or life-affirming? If you are given a tool, should it not be used? Especially when considering that by not using them, we will miss out on something very amazing?

I see this a lot of times with business majors. Sure, some people major in business because they want to open a shoe store in Paris, Texas and live their lives measuring feet and smelling leather. And that’s fine. It would be presumptuous, in most circumstances, to deny what one person finds fulfilling and then tell them, “You should not find that fulfilling.” It might be O.K., however, to speak up if what that person found life affirming was serial murder.

But I mention business majors here primarily because I often notice that people may be majoring in business because either their parents “encouraged” them to, or because they plainly think, “I need to get a job so I can have money.” The ideas of having something truly enriching, life-affirming, and purposeful do not always get taken fully into consideration. When considering one’s mutability and inevitably in death, notions like “an enriching life” should probably be considered every now and then. Then again, if a person doesn’t care about that, what can I do but acknowledge that and move on?

We are humans, not moths, and our short time on earth should not be wasted. This was not written to tell anyone what is life-affirming, because that is for each individual to find out on his or her own. Hopefully some people think business is life-affirming, because in a capitalist society, we all need some good, learned business majors out there doing the work some of us never found passion in.

Since we are faced with this question that life demands be answered, let’s not wait until we lay in our deathbed to contemplate what could have been meaningful, because we can start figuring that out today. Moths can’t do this; humans should.

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