Let’s Share The Work Of A Better Era: The Fly and The Ant

Has the Holocene Era ended and the Anthropocene Era begun?

And with this new era comes a host of indoor pathologies because we humans spend too much time indoors and largely immobile. The Holocene (“entirely new”) Era began about 11, 700 years after the last major ice age. Anthropocene-ists (“new human”) argue that humans have so reshaped the environment of our planet, that our age merits that new designation. When humans emerged during the Holocene Era we were biologically designed to use our bodies in the outdoors to work and play. We don’t anymore. Instead, we reshape our environment to suit our sedentary, consumptive society, laying waste to our home planet.

We’ve lost touch not only with our physical selves, but also with our spirit selves. We don’t take our bodies outdoors and we don’t pause to look inside our minds. We are a world full of persona with fewer persons. We keep so very busy distracting ourselves and maintaining our brand, we live outside our selves. We neglect our interior life and the valuable, largely silent and unseen work of getting to know ourselves. So that in addition to the indoor pathologies we have a mirror set of outside pathologies—anxiety, fear of missing out, compare and despair, more anxiety, sleeplessness and more anxiety.

A couple of chatty insects from the 17th century (back in the Holocene Era) have some thoughts on our current condition.

The fly and the ant were contesting their worth.

Oh Jupiter! the fly exclaimed to the gods. Pride has blinded the ant’s spirit so badly, that abject and obsequious animal thinks herself equal to a daughter of the air (i.e. moi!) I haunt the palace halls. I sit at the gods’ table with you. If they make you a roast, I taste it first. Meanwhile, this insignificant, miserable creature lives for three days on a bit of straw she’s dragged home. But my sweet ant, tell me, have you ever sat on a king’s head? An emperor’s? A beauty’s? I do. And I kiss the most beautiful breast, when I want. I play in their hair. I highlight the porcelain white of a woman’s face. The last touch a woman takes with her appearance before she heads off to conquest is to add a velvet beauty mark (an accessory named “fly”). And you want to bother me with your business of a storehouse?

Are you done? the busy little homemaker ant sneered. Sure, you haunt the palace, but they curse you. As for tasting the gods’ meals first, do you think that improves their food? If you go everywhere, so do the profane. You may hang out on the head of a king, just as well as on the head of a donkey. I don’t disagree. I know that this importunity often costs you a quick death. Certain adjustments, you say, make women more beautiful. I agree—the velvet beauty mark is black like you, and me. Just because the beauty accessory is called fly, is that a reason for you to trumpet your merits? Aren’t the parasites hovering around the king’s court also called flies? Stop grasping at empty language. Don’t indulge in such exalted ideas. The flies at court are chased away. The worst of them, the spies and betrayers, are hung. Plus, you’ll die of hunger, cold, languor and misery when Apollo takes his sun and summer to the other hemisphere.

I, on the other hand, the fly continued, will be rejoicing in the fruits of my labour. I won’t be out on hill or dale, exposed to wind or rain. I’ll live without melancholy. The care I took during the summer will exempt me from needing care in the cold season. I hope I’ve taught you, in this little discourse, the difference between a false and a true glory. Adieu. I’m wasting time. Let me get back to my work. Neither my storehouse, nor my cupboard will fill their shelves with my chatter.  

We perch on social media’s royal head, burnishing our brands and perceived importance. We feast on our entitlement, as if the gods granted it. We yearn to be a beauty mark on the face of the anthropocene world. Yet, we are projections, ephemeral versions of our actual substance. And only our substantial natures can heal the free fall of our planet and society.


“If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” Words to consider from Carl Jung (Psychology and Religion, 1938).

We have some work to do. We each need to shoulder our share. We have to stop pointing fingers at others and asking, why are they so stupid or angry or violent or fearful or blind or careless or…?

Now is the Ant Era, when we do the work of looking inward and ask, what is my part in the problems of our day? How can I be better?


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