May 20, 2011
It is only natural to expect a deep, reflective piece on the mysteries of life in a column titled, “Why, God?” However, I tend to think those topics have been covered extensively by better writers than I. If you are in need of wisdom and consolation on these types of questions, I would suggest St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Merton, Jacques Maritain, G.K. Chesterton, or, best of all, the source itself, Holy Scripture.
On the other hand, I have noted that there is still insufficient exploration of a particular aspect of this question. Specifically, I would like to see more delving into why God created insects. Besides the very effective use as a plague upon the hard-headed, what good are these creatures that irritate us and gross us out?
I was prompted to this thought by my son, Timmy. The other night, he appeared in my bedroom at just after midnight stating, “Robert, said to come in here and sleep.” Waking from a stupor and unsure why his older brother would send him to our room given he is fourteen, I asked, “What’s wrong?”
He said, “A centipede bit me on the…” The rest was unintelligible as he spontaneously leaped into a mad version of Riverdance, yelling, “Oh, my God, it’s on my boxers.” He was eventually able to get the centipede to the floor whereupon his valiant brother killed it with bug spray from a safe distance — somehow the traditional shoe had failed. Centipedes are relatively flat already.
I have to say that I like late night TV and often go to the last show at the movies; however, I now think I like late night impromptu live theater the best. Although I am still new at it, I can assure you comedy is the right genre for that time slot.
Before we judge Timmy’s flailing reaction too harshly, it is important to note that the most important difference between a centipede and a millipede is not the number of legs. While it is true that a centipede only has one set of legs per section and a millipede has two, the more vital difference, especially for those in Timmy’s predicament, is that the first set of legs on centipedes are in fact very sharp pinchers bloated with venom. Some bug enthusiasts may choose to share a bed with a millipede — large ones are even kept as pets — but nobody would do so with a centipede.
All joking aside, a bite from a centipede is not trivial. Fortunately for Timmy, his culprit had only succeeded at pinching his back, not injecting its noxious venom. Centipedes can deliver a nasty, festering wound if they really get their pinchers into you. Ergo the question: God, why did you create this nasty insect?
Insect defenders will undoubtedly point out that a centipede is not actually an insect — but these scientists under appreciate the importance of ugly, nasty and squishy as the real basis for the classification of insects. Regardless, the question still seems valid: Why insects, God?
The reason often given for any odd creature’s existence is “the food chain.” Since we are thankfully at the top of this bio-meal pyramid, we are supposed to just accept the fact that it gets ugly at the bottom as “the way it is.” But, I took the initiative to read up on the centipede’s diet. It seems that a lot of its prey is bugs and animals that are also eaten by better looking and less menacing members of the kingdom. So, why didn’t centipedes go the way of the dinosaurs?
Could it be that insects, and their too-close-for-nonscientists-to-tell-the-difference cousins, are unavoidable reminders that we do not occupy our first intended home? Could the existence of nasty insects be a subtext in the book of evolution that reminds us that we have fallen from complete grace? I mention this because I don’t remember reading that Adam and Eve were swatting anything as they owned up to the crime that triggered the eviction clause in their rental agreement.
If that is it, God, we got the message. Can you make them go away now?