Saturday, May 9, 2009

Centipede's Tail

I came across this desert creature in the middle of a trail, its head buried in the abdomen of a dead mouse. Eight or nine inches long, its orange segmented torso the diameter of a flattened pencil, 100 yellow legs continually shifting--gaining purchase--in the sandy ground. After watching for a spell, I blew at it and POOF, the last pair of legs flinched up, readying to pinch like poisonous, monstrous earwig jaws. After a few more puffs, I gingerly poked that pair of legs with a stick, and over and over they nabbed at the stick...

...but the head worked away in the gullet of the mouse. Most creatures would scamper away, or defend their meal, or quit eating in any case. This one continued to feed as its defensive rear pair of legs mindlessly groped at the annoyance. Finally I swept it to the side of the trail, lest it be crushed by a nervous hiker, and it turned this way and that. Until I re-joined it with its dinner, and it plunged head-first, back into the belly, back to the best meal it may have seen in some time.

On one level, these rear legs are our security systems, whether store-bought or mind-forg'd--upon which we depend for our sanity. A gated community, a cynical attitude, a pistol: these fill the gap so we need not perpetually mind the barbarians at our gates. However defense works best in layers. Merely one of these tools won't suffice, and may even work to our detriment. And yet, at the logical extreme, all of these may be defeated by paranoia .

Without God, humans have their heads buried: if not in the sand, in their work, in their hobbies, in their own "personal Jesus" (or, as a friend mentioned to me, their "substitute saviour.") Those defense mechanisms are working away, and usually on a program separate from our present-time consciousness! Much has been made of the "mind-body" dualism, however we know there's a much deeper division at work. We will discuss a proper defense, of the mind and body, however I pray we are granted the Grace never to consider these without a defense of the spirit.

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