God, Bugs and Dinosaurs
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Category: Opinion > Columns
At four years of age, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to be a dinosaur.
There weren't any other kids in my neighborhood when I was growing up, so I was friends with all the bugs in my backyard. I used to catch them and put them inside of a shoebox. I loved the pill bugs (roly-polys) because there were so many all over the place and they were so easy to catch. The pincher bugs were neat (digger-scorpions), but you had to be careful with those or they'd sting you dead (not really).
The jumper-flyers (grasshoppers) were a prize. Their intricately designed bodies looked so unique and miraculous, like the alien superheroes in the comic books I would read when I got older. These were my friends when I was growing up. I gave them names, carried them around with me every day and they stayed next to my bed at night so I could converse with them before I fell asleep.
One day, disaster struck. On our little blacktop road, I spied a large, brown creepy-crawler. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was a tarantula. What a prize! The big guy froze and clamped down on the ground when I approached. I put my palm down flat on the ground (like I'd seen on the Discovery Channel) and slid my hand up against its side legs (I didn't want to go anywhere near those mandibles).
At first the spider flicked at me, yet when I nudged its legs again, it side-stepped completely up onto my hand. I felt magical and amazing and my whole body tingled. Up close, its eight black eyes looked lifeless and menacing, but I knew better. I imagined such a creature to be a lonesome wandering soul, homeless and solitary. So I brought it home with me and put it in the shoebox with the rest of my buggers.
The next day, I woke up and checked inside the bugs' house to see how they were all getting along. I gasped: In one corner was the tarantula crouched down on the ground, and in the rest of the container were the flayed and mangled limbs of all my bugs.
I wasn't sad or angry that all my friends had been killed. This went deeper. I was in shock that I could love something as much as I did my bugs and they could all be killed so viciously.
Wasn't love protection? And the tarantula wasn't a bad bug, just hungry? What did that mean about humans? Humans, unlike bugs, are cruel to one another on purpose, sometimes for pleasure, and they don't even eat each other (or only rarely). How could God exist in a world like this?
From then on, I never caught bugs. I devoted the rest of my childhood days to studying to become a dinosaur. I watched endless documentaries and borrowed zillions of books from the library. Dinosaurs seemed like they got to have it both ways: giant, muscular, capable of defending themselves against anything-but mellow, gentle and kind the rest of the time, like my favorite grass-eating brontosaurus.
One day my older brother got irritated with me because I was reading in the car and the edge of my book kept bumping him.
When we got home, my mom said to me,"Rob, why do you read about dinosaurs all the time?"
"Mom," I said, "You don't understand. I'm going to be a dinosaur someday."
She looked at me very seriously.
"Well you don't have to study all the time. Prospective dinosaur-people can take breaks too, you know."
"No mom!" I said. Then very calmly, "If I'm going to be a good dinosaur, this is stuff I need to know."
"You'll make a great dinosaur," she said.
Now that I'm all grown up, I no longer want to be a dinosaur because I have other priorities. I would much rather be a silverback gorilla, for example.
Why? 1) You get to have a harem of female gorillas from which you can choose whom to impregnate 2) You get to be hairy and fat and eat bananas all day long, but with one grimace, everyone runs away screaming, and 3) Finally I would have an excuse for lying around naked all day long playing with myself.
That's why I'm an English major, because in my imagination, I can be a big dinosaur or a nice silverback gorilla, and everybody is good to one another, and nobody has to die.
Mourn innocence and pincher bugs with Robin at [email protected]
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