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The Black Dog

https://widgetworld3.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/the-black-dog/

Courtesy: ESA/Hubble

Courtesy: ESA/Hubble

I have a theory, well, two theories in fact. The first is that each year, at the end of Spring a particular conference is held in every state in Australia. The delegates are flies. These conferences are coordinated with an effort that puts us wingless, two-leggers to shame. At these conferences minutes are read, papers are presented, then discussed and debated. This is followed by an evening of cocktails and cowpats, a social occasion that usually sorts out the flies from the larvae. Sensible flies always manage to behave at these events. With age comes wisdom I suppose. Then you have the constipated flies who wouldn’t know fun if it hit them in the thorax. Overindulgent flies, on the other hand, usually have to spend the entire next day apologising for their indiscretions. And so on. Anyway, the whole conference concludes amidst the usual scandal and gossip. On the way out each fly is given the conference equivalent of a show bag. This bag contains badges, stickers, promotional leaflets, sometimes a scarf, always a request for a donation of sorts. The bag also holds their roster of activities for the forthcoming year. These rosters cater to each individual fly, which I think is truly incredible if not downright miraculous.

Courtesy: HubbleSite

Courtesy: HubbleSite

In this roster, each fly delegate is given a number, an address and a mission. Fly XZ214539 for example is allocated to Joe Smith in South Australia (real name and address withheld). Once contact has been made between them, Joe is given the dubious privilege of waving, swatting and swearing at Fly XZ214539 for the entire summer. Wherever Joe goes, Fly XZ214539 is there. Whatever Joe does, Fly XZ214539 shares the moment. They’re inseparable.

Now, given the breathtakingly short life span of a fly (adults usually live 15 to 25 days), Joe should, theoretically, only suffer in the short term from the singular and undivided attention of Fly XZ214539. But flies, crafty little buggers that they are, have covered that eventuality. At some point in their evolution the ancesters of Fly XZ214539 learned to pass this mission on to their surviving offspring, just before they expire. Joe’s fly is testimony to this tradition. This effectively means that Joe Smith hasn’t a hope in hell of a moment’s peace for at least five months, especially when you consider that Fly XZ214539 and his missus could, potentially, produce 191,010,000,000,000,000,000 offspring in that time. So, basically as long as there is a Joe, he will always have his fly, or two (the second one being the apprentice).

Courtesy: NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar Observatory

Courtesy: NASA, ESA, AURA/Caltech, Palomar Observatory

My other theory is that, like flies, each and every one of us has a black dog of depression to share our lives with. For most of us this is a pretty normal state of affairs. Their presence helps us define our happiness because at some time they have taught us sadness. Through them we experience desolation which makes us appreciate better times. We celebrate the light in our lives because they have shown us despair. This is the normal state of affairs.

Unfortunately, with the black dog of depression there are a vast number of breeds. Therein lies the problem. Some people, the lucky ones, get a chihuahua. Small innocuous, pathetic really, it occasionally nips, sometimes leaves a scratch and then goes back to sleep in its corner for as long as it suits him. Others get a greyhound that hits at the speed of a locomotive and leaves its target reeling for days, weeks or even months. This breed usually leaves a scar but eventually it moves on, hopefully not to return for quite a while, if ever. Then there’s the bullmastiff, that bloody great monster. Slow, sure and persistent it straddles its prey, latches onto their jugular and their souls then watches perversely as its victim fights for every single breath. And like a true bullmastiff, it is nearly impossible to prise its jaws open or slide out from under its seventy-kilo bulk. Nearly impossible, but not quite.

That black dog is aptly named. It thrives on darkness. The bigger the black dog, the more perversely faithful it seems. At night time, when the world sleeps, it wakes to feed. It knows its victim is alone and unprotected and that is precisely when it and you need distraction.

The logical thing to do is to take it for a walk.

You don’t have to go far. Just go to your window. Open the curtains and look out and up, at the night sky. Up there thousands, millions, billions of lights, lifetimes away, share the night with you. They also share it with the black dog that sits beside, or on top of thought and feeling. But if you look take your black dog and look at him, then through him, then past him he will start to melt into the darkness and the stars will shine through. If you keep staring, and focus on those stars, that black dog can disappear completely until all that’s left are two red, glowing eyes. Those eyes can become orbiting satellites, and pretty insignificant ones at that, when you compare them to the beauty of the world at night. The stars above that always light the darkness, even on cloudy nights can even illuminate the shadows left by the black dog.

 

 NGC 4414, a typical spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices, is about 55,000 light-years in diameter and approximately 60 million light-years away from Earth.NASA Headquarters - Greatest Images of NASA


NGC 4414, a typical spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices, is about 55,000 light-years in diameter and approximately 60 million light-years away from Earth.NASA Headquarters – Greatest Images of NASA

Now, under that night sky we might seem small, nearly insignificant. But, as the stars are part of something larger, so are we, even if the black dog says otherwise. What’s more, we share a common purpose. Basically, only the biggest, the most important stars have planets to orbit them. Only they have the strength to draw lesser beings towards them and hold them in their grasp. Only they have a truly magnetic power. While we might not all be aware of it, this is where our lives intersect with the stars above. In the grand scheme of life, whether we are rich or poor, happy or sad, tired or emotional we too have our orbiting planets. Joe Smith found his with Fly XZ214539 and his offspring. The rest of us enjoy the company of the friends and relatives of Fly XZ214539.

So, if that black dog starts to prowl remember, look up. Look to the stars. Incredible worlds evolve just above us, waiting to be explored and considered. Our lives, our worries are tiny in comparison. In this present moment also, each of us is a macrocosm for another world, equally amazing. As we live and breathe we are constantly and eternally being circumnavigated, examined and probed by others more humble. To Fly XZ214539, his compatriots and an even smaller host of bugs, all of us are special. We are the focus of their conferences, the purpose of their showbags, the highlight of their rosters, the legacy for their larvae. Even if this doesn’t seem important to us, from their perspective we are, truly, the centre of the universe. We have a place.

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About The Burren and Beyond

Archaeologist

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