Like a moth to a flame

One of the things that’s always fascinated me is the way moths are attracted to a light yet are considered nocturnal creatures. I’ve read a few articles as to why this is the most ‘scientific’ explanation suggests that it has something to do with their navigation system.

According to Mike Saunders and Penn State University, “Moths often use the moon to orient themselves during night flight.” The moon acts as an optical infinity which means that as it reflects light from the sun, it appears on earth as a parallel and even light source. With an even light, moths can fly through the night with impeccable accuracy, until we turn on a light.

Whether it’s a fire or a porch light, the artificial source creates a new data point for the moth to understand direction. Being much brighter than the moon, the moth’s internal navigation system tries hard to recalibrate ultimately changing its triangulation properties.

They aren’t actually in love with the light; in fact they’re trying to fly into the darkness but keep getting confused about which direction is which. After spending sufficient time around the light, it’s speculated that moths even get so confused that they mistake the new light as the sun and settle down to sleep.

It’s a deep metaphor but it’s certainly made me think about how we operate as humans. The symbolic global guiding light of our morals and values versus the bright distractions we face along the way.

Like the moth, humans are instinctively motivated by similar characteristics – survival, which is explained in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Depending on the culture, country and circumstances, certain levels of the hierarchy are simply more pressing than others.

To help us through our lives, we congregate around the proverbial lights whether it’s a certain job/industry, a club, a city/place or even just divide the room between race, gender and sexuality.

We create clusters of like minded people to provide safety in numbers and foster similar energy; excluding those who aren’t like minded to protect the hive. It’s our way to validate our beliefs, our identity and to justify the decisions that we make. It’s also a great way to become blinded by dogma.

I’ve always wondered how people grow and take the directions that they do. We’re all born with a animalistic understanding of the world and from there, our social opinions, beliefs, values, language and so on are formed by the world around us; the world we are exposed and choose to expose ourselves to. To think even the most abhorrent dictators were once upon a time a naïve child simply wanting food and cuddles.

I’ve always been told that you’ll become the average of your friends so spend your time around those you aspire to be rather than the other way around. Imagine them (and the immediate world around you) as your light – is that what you want to be?

It would serve one well to constantly assess the light you’re flying around. Is your light the moon; allowing you to travel anywhere in time and space or is it some dingy porch bulb that you’re fooled into thinking is what you want and need?

Just because there are other moths flying around the bulb doesn’t mean it’s the moon.

It’s easy (and understandable) to follow money or the crowd because someone turned a light on. You may even believe in time that the sun never sleeps so you settle down to hibernate. Unfortunately like moths, you will eventually die of hunger in your sleep or being burned by the very light that attracted you.

It takes a different kind of strength and will to fight social proof and remain true to who you are; to acknowledge the artificial lights but not be distracted; to keep moving on your quest and follow the moon. It might not seem as glamorous in the short term but it’s where your fulfilment has been all along.

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