Have you ever met a gift-bearing, secret-sharing insect?I have, and I'd like to tell you the story. I come from Texas, the land where many tall tales are spun. But my story is not the type of tale that people think Texans like to spin. Mine is a true experience, and if it is a tall tale at all it is tall in a spiritual sense, even though it is about a "lowly" insect.
I was sitting on the roof trying to study and write -- I like to compare the roof of our apartment building to the sun deck of a ship, because it invites the sun and wind. But I felt separate from it all. I was puzzled and distracted, my thoughts so focused on personal problems that I was oblivious to everything -- especially the printed words before me in my book, which seemed mere inky black forms with no substance. My own words, when they passed from pen to paper , had just as empty a ring. And the words from the religious service I had just atteded, and on which I tried to reflect, also had left only a ringing in my ears.
After a while, an unusual visitor intruded upon the unsatisfactory state of my thoughts by lighting on the right arm of my deck chair. It was an extraordinarily big orange-and-black banded bug; no small ladybug, but king-size , as well as handsome in cut and color. Planted firmly at my side, it seemed to remain still. Then I began to realize that its antennae were waving delicately yet continuously in the air, with a mathematical balance. As I watched, it seemed to signal a turn. With a dazzlingly wide jump it reached the railing, from where it continued about its unfinished business.
My flashy friend's turn-signaling apparatus had momentarily entertained me, then I went on with my attempted reading. After a bit, something drew my attention to the left arm of the deck chair. There was another insect, but this time one so transparent of wing and so pale of color that, except for the geometrical outline of its black antennae, it was hardly discernible. Yet all my tumbling thoughts became focused on its course from the arm of the chair.
First, it crawled across my book, and, with mounting disappointment, I saw nothing but the black of one more printed word showing through its transparent wings. The insect itself was now labeled and divided against itself, like a clear vinyl bag with its price tag showing through. It was like another of my books with printed words -- and like the contents of my mind itself, which felt like so much newsprint. The insect climbed onto my hand and began to crawl up my arm, again the elemental color of nothing.
Then as I looked, with increasing elation, the edges of the insect's wings were seen to be tinged with prismatic rays, in paths of white, yellow, red, and green.The paths vibrated; they flashed like colored threads, now radiantly metallic, now transparent and soft as the mist. Layers of shimmering gauze seemed to peel away, universe within universe, to a warp and woof of blue air, down to a calm ocean; on down, down, down to something barely structured which reduced itself shortly to my own skin. At that moment the gloriously porous insect be came substantial enough to fly away. I felt a strange contentment come over me.
I went indoors and picked up my newspaper, its pages still unopened. The first thing i saw was a quotation from Andre Gide -- from "Autumn Leaves," which I had never read.
"Space is full of vibrations, rays, that our senses cannot perceive, but which are intercepted by the antennae of insects. What connection between our sensations and their cause? Without a sensitive receiver, nature remains mute, colorless, and odorless. We were already satisfied with our senses; the rest is superfluous. But whether we wish it or not, the rest is there. Man has daringly widened his reception and unlimited his power. Too bad he does not show himself more equal to it! He bears himself ill. Lack of habit, perhaps (let us hope so), of all that is so new! He is trespassing and he is overwhelmed."
No longer did I have the sensation that I was reading just words. Everything fell into its place. The logjam of my feelings broke free to make a direct connection with the words. Through the silent visit of the insects this had been made possible just as surely as though the first insect, the flashy one, had said, "Look here!" to fix my attention, while the second, quiet one created a vacuum which my imagination could fill when it passed beyond form to the force behind it.
It had said to me, "You're not a trespasser at all. You're part of the open secret. Don't be overwhelmed!"
The present which the gift-bearing, secret-sharing insects had brought me was the connection;m and the secret they shared with me was that man is equal to it.