middot diligence daily living lessons from a beetle

lessons from a beetle

Written by  rav rafael

art-beetleLast fall, my wife and I took a 10 mile walk on the Snoqualmie-Preston trail east of Seattle.  It’s a very scenic trail near the famous Snoqualmie Falls and is in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains.  The unfortunate thing about walking on trails like this is you can’t always have your head up to view the scenery.  There’s a lot going on beneath your feet that requires extra care as you walk.  One wrong move and you will step in goose guano, slip on a slug, or crunch a bug.

On this walk, we were noticing all the bugs and critters along the path, trying to avoid stepping on them.  We happened upon a poor beetle stuck on his back in the middle of the path.  His legs were moving briskly despite going nowhere.   Malkah found a little stick and tried to get him turned over so he could use his legs, but he just couldn’t get his footing and kept rolling over on his back.  It was almost as if he wanted to stay on his back.  To him, it was an easy fate and he felt like he was going somewhere.

From our perspective he wasn’t going anywhere.  I can’t help but wonder if from the beetle’s perspective, he felt like he had the world on his back and was taking us all along for a ride.

After several attempts to right him, we gave up, thinking we should let the beetle go along its natural course - whatever that may be.

analysis of the beetle

Of course, a beetle is never just a beetle.  What’s amazing is how long this beetle insisted on moving all of its legs despite going nowhere.  This is a human trait as well.  We busy ourselves with life for so long in between the Jewish holidays.  Yet in reality, we’ve made no real progress. We’re stuck on our backs and we don’t have any inclination as to how long we've been in this pathetic state. We think we’ve got everything under control. When someone stops and tries to turn us over, we simply don’t know what to do.  Our legs are weak and it’s hard to resist the actual pavement to turn around.  So what do we do....back on our back we go.

on the return trip….

After most of the long walk was done, we were near the trailhead.  Recalling the spot where we first encountered our critter on its back, Malkah looks down and sees a beetle walking across and exclaims, “Looks like he got himself back upright and is walking. ”  I’m in complete denial because that was 1.5 hours ago when we saw that bug, and probably fifty others like him along the way.   Yet, I do start to realize that we are generally in the same place.  She insists that it has to be the bug saying, “I can feel it.”  I resist as I often do, not able to appreciate a wife’s spiritual discernment.  And, right where I’m standing, I begin to look down and around.  V’Hineh!  The beetle is on his back right underneath me to my right. And also, near him, was the stick that Malkah was trying to use to set him on his feet previously.  We’re both amazed that he is still lying there with his little legs going 100 mph.  It’s a miracle he hasn’t died from fatigue, been squashed or eaten after all that time.  Malkah, with renewed hope, picks up the stick and tries to right him again a few more times, with no success.  As a last ditch attempt, she moves him over onto the grass.  There on the grass, she is able to get him upright and stay that way, but his little legs are not moving anymore.  He is just there, standing on top of a few blades of grass, contemplating his existence from a new perspective.  The world is much different than how he previously perceived it. 

at the new year

The beetle’s story is the story of us, of Israel, of dispersion and restoration, of forgetting and remembering. If even for just a little bit, we’ve been on our backs and our spiritual walk needs to be strengthened. We often are treading water, busy doing things that don’t really matter.  We are certainly diligent in these things, but are they what matters in life?  Does our twisted perspective or misaligned priorities cause us to place value in what does no good for the world, our loved ones, and ourselves?  True diligence is fruitful for the things that are difficult in life.  Don’t be a beetle stuck on its back.  Put the world under your feet and walk with diligence.

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