In which we learn something disturbing about the miraculous animal kingdom by turning you into a cockroach pursued by a wasp.
There’s a wasp out there in the natural world. It is known as the Emerald Cockroach Wasp, and it is much prettier than it sounds. In size and shape, it resembles an ant more than a traditional wasp, and unlike most insects, its body is an iridescent turquoise. Nobody knows why this wasp is such a striking colour. To look at it, perhaps you would be less repulsed by it than other wasps*.
You are wrong, dear reader. You should be more so**. And if by chance you awoke this morning in the form of a giant cockroach*** you should actively flee if you see one. Flee. Flee.
The colour of the wasp, however odd for its genus, is not the interesting (and frankly awful) characteristic of this anthropoid. What really defines this creature is its preferred methods of reproducing, specifically of laying its eggs. On the living form of a poisoned cockroach.
And just to make this more traumatic^ we’re going to speculate you are a little cockroach^^ minding your own business, wandering about the tropical forests of South Asia.
You’re the average size of a grown man’s hand and are one of the world’s hardiest insects, adapted to living in extreme temperatures of both hot and cold. Your body is split into three segments, and a ten-segmented abdomen. Two large compound eyes made up of 2,000 lenses (humans have one) that allow you to see almost 360 degrees of your surroundings, although you are unable to see red light. Two antennae, located on your head, house your scent organs. Two organs called cerci on your backside, much like parallel tails, allow you to detect air movements. In short, you are a pretty impressive little beastie, much bigger and stronger^^^ than, say, a blue wasp.
As a cockroach, you’re wandering about searching for something to eat with the mouth located on the underside of your head. You can eat a lot of stuff including glue, hair and leather, but you’re unlikely to come across these delights in your tropical forest homeland, so let’s say you’re on the hunt for a carrion. When suddenly, a fellow insect, half your size at best, and nowhere near your weight appears from the undergrowth and grabs your head.
At first, it might not seem so bad. You are by far the stronger of the two creatures and begin to fend it off. It is at this point the wasp stings you in the brain. Specifically, the female wasp stings you in the ganglia, the cluster of nerve cells responsible for sensation and movement. At this point your ability to fight the wasp is disabled. The sting introduces a neurotoxin which paralyses your forelegs. Then just for kicks^* the wasp proceeds to chew off half of each your antenna. This is only beginning of your troubles.
The wasp then stings you again. Again it aims for the ganglia, this time injecting a chemical designed to block your escape reflex. A strange feeling is now passing along your body. The natural instincts causing you to fight and run are rendered mute. After a few seconds, you are a compliant and calm victim. Without any fight or flight left in you, the little wasp, who hasn’t a hope in hell of carrying you alone, simply leads you like a dog on a chain to a burrow nearby.
Down, down into the burrow you are led. You have no will to resist. When the wasp decides you are deep enough, it will let go, but you will not flee. You will simply remain still and brain numb as the wasp lays an egg on your body.
Do you see where this is going?
The wasp will then retreat from the hole, leaving the egg nestled upon your abdomen. It will cover the hole with leafy debris and pebbles to keep other, arguably less nasty, predators from finding you. Meanwhile, you’ll sit undisturbed in the hole. And then the egg will hatch.
With the neurotoxin still strong in your system, you won’t so much as twitch. The wasp larva will attach itself to your body and begin feeding on your insides. And it will eat you from the unessential parts in. After five days or so of nibbling, it will dig itself into your body and start thriving on your organs, leaving the nerves and breathing system as a tasty dessert to the rest of you. And due to this dining order, you will be alive the whole time*^.
Eventually, after eight days of feeding, the wasp will form a cocoon inside your body and emerge later from your dry, empty husk as a fully grown wasp. At least your tortuous last week will be over. There are no wasps in cockroach heaven**^.
At least your tortuous last week will be over. There are no wasps in cockroach heaven**^, I’m sure.
Why am I telling you all this? Why did I bother to invite your imagination to pretend you are doomed insect being eaten alive? Usually, I would conclude with some philosophic prose on how we ourselves are either the wasp or the cockroach, but that’s not why I bring this up.
Mostly, it is because earlier today I was sitting downcast in front of the television when a nature documentary came on featuring a cockroach who landed itself in the circumstance I described above. Despite not entirely cheering my spirits, I did think ‘well, at least I’m not a cockroach being eaten alive by a wasp’, so there’s that. Either I’ve perked you up with the same thought, or I’ve fueled your nightmares for the next week or so. If you find yourself having a bad day, however, I think it might be something worth remembering.
You’ve got to admit it’s actually interesting though, right? Gross and disturbing, but interesting.
Does writing about insects make anyone else itchy? I’m going to need to shower now.
Pleasent non-wasp-infested dreams, hypothetical readership.
*I write this as somebody with a particular dislike of waspy, buzzy members of our animal kingdom. In my opinion, they are tiny flying spears with anger issues. I once saw one sting a woman in the eye. Completely unprovoked. Stung her in the eye. Forgive me my prejudice. However, I’m sure once you read about the Emerald Cockroach Wasp you’ll at least be more wary of the Hymenoptera clan.
**At this point, you can simply take my word for it and hop on your merry way, ignorant of the horrid tortures happening in the natural world. However, if you are brave enough to put knowledge before comfort, ride on with me…. maybe bring a bucket. For the puke.
***Metamorphosis II: One man awakes as a giant cockroach and another awakes as a giant emerald cockroach wasp. The hunt is on. I’m kidding, here, but I wouldn’t put it past Hollywood to make it into a legitimate film starring Bruce Willis as the wasp.
^Because I realise, I have hyped it up more than I probably should have.
^^There are 4,600 to choose from. I’m not sure which kind hang around in tropical South Asian climates, and we’re here to talk about the wasp. Feel free to use creative license and pick any cockroach you like; heck, you can even make up your own if you like. Be whatever cockroach your heart desires, just don’t get attached to your new form.
^^^I feel sorry for the cockroach sometimes. I mean, they’re not portrayed well on TV. I myself would not be best pleased to find one in my home, but they are, as creatures go, relatively interesting and ‘harmless’ (not 100% sure on all 2,400 varieties). At least I’ve never heard of a cockroach stinging someone in the eye.
^*I’m not kidding; biologists have yet to determine the exact reason the wasp does this.
In which we examine the re-designing of this blog by pondering philosophical ideas about its author, and how she is similar to an ancient, metaphorical, Greek sailing vessel.
There’s a thought experiment known as The Ship of Theseus, which poses the question as to whether an object which has had all of its original components replaced over time is still the same object.
The story is thus*: Long ago in Greece, a king by the name of Theseus, sets out on a ship, and wins a great battle before returning safely home. In his honour, the Athenians erect the ship as a monument to his glory. Eventually, however, the ship’s boards start rotting. The devoted Athenians cut new boards, strip away the rotting wood, and affix new planks. A while later, of course, the sail becomes weathered and torn. Again, the Athenians trim a new sail from fresh cloth and fix it to the mast. Then the mast itself is ridden with termites and must be replaced. Then the rudder breaks and more boards fall apart and the oars are lost. Soon, every remnant of Theseus’ vessel has been removed and replaced with new parts, which poses one very important question: is it still fundamentally the original ship as sailed by Theseus?
If so then how, but if not, then at what point did the ship become a different ship?
I don’t bring this up to wax philosophical or write a detailed analysis of the arguments for and against the paradox. That’s not the post you’re going to get**. So, let us put a pin in the Ship of Theseus for a minute and turn our attention to what does need discussing, namely, the redesign of this blog***.
If you are brave and bored enough to venture into the archives^ you’ll notice throughout my years of owning this particular part of the internet, I have taken long (often very long) leaves of absence. In some cases, this is because I actually do still write, but choose not to share the posts because they are private. In others, this is because I find myself wondering what the point is. In almost every case, I have eventually shrugged these feelings off and returned.
The trouble is, for me, writing is a particularly personal endeavour. I never write anything without intent. Therefore, writing can be emotionally draining, enlightening, explorative, a means to let go of painful thoughts or understand difficult events and feelings, emotionally sustaining, stabilising, to record, to learn and etc and etc. To make matters more complicated, I always try to give this blog meaning as well. If you’ve been following me for the nearing seven years it has been in existance^^ you’ll know that the elements of the design have remained constant for almost as long.
In my latest disappearance, I haven’t actually lacked the want to write or to post, I just didn’t feel doing so had any meaning. I even analysed the idea of deleting the blog, because I wasn’t sure what I was doing with it anymore. It was meant for so much at the beginning when I was younger and super eager, and had a ridiculously organised and impossible plan for my life. I posted then because I wanted to get my writing out there and seen, and I wanted (somewhat egotistically, I now realise) to record everything about my life going exactly the way I had imagined it would. When, however, life started to ease away from that ideal, I desperately clung to this blog as a means of preserving it. I wanted to present to the world someone who knew what they doing; someone who had interesting thoughts and an interesting life. I tried to be something else. I tried to make the blog different each time, but without changing the core aspect of what it was meant for. I was unconsciously holding on to the life-plan I had set out at 21. This blog was like the ship of Theseus left to simply rot away.
The truth of the matter is I too am like the ship of Theseus. Who I am and what I want have developed steadily over time, piece by piece, thought by thought. I have become someone who resembles the person who started this blog, but I’m constructed by entirely different elements.
As my life veered my motivations changed, as circumstances altered so to did my understandings of the world. I met people who impacted on what I valued and how I see myself. I learned lessons the hard way. My social circle has changed, my geographic location has changed. Everything about the 21-year-old (somewhat deluded) girl who began this has been replaced, gradually, just like the legendary ship.
At the core of me am I the same person? I don’t know. I’ve spent many a wakeful night asking myself that, and never come to any solid conclusion. Whether I am or not isn’t really important. The significant part is, I’m not made of the same parts. My experiences have shaped my thoughts and feelings beyond what that person would even be able to understand back then.
This blog as it stood became meaningless the moment the person who started it vanished. I’m not sure at what point she vanished completely, but she did. I didn’t want to realise that. I was still holding onto her, this girl who had her young life ahead, who believed life would work out exactly as she wanted, who had potential and hope. I’ve come to understand recently that holding so tightly to her stops me from creating new plans and having new hopes. There was only going to be any meaning in writing and posting here again if I pulled the blog in line with who I am now.
So, I tentatively test blogged yesterday with something I had wanted to write about and share for a long time. The idea was to explore how I felt about having shared it, even without extensive editing^^^, but when I clicked to check the upload was displaying, I was underwhelmed by what I saw. A header image that was taken many years ago; back then I found it an inspiring photograph of a place I often walked to think and feel. Now I live some 300 miles away and even when I didn’t, I stopped frequently visiting years ago. That place will always hold meaning for me, but not the same meaning as it did. The style and colours I once thought as vibrant and clean, were just dull. The name^* had no resonance at all. I tried to recall the reasons I had for choosing it and couldn’t come up with anything. Obviously, something about it held me at the beginning, but it held me captured no longer. The title didn’t represent me anymore.
To delete or not to delete, that dear hypothetical audience, was the question.
I started asking other questions as I hovered over the idea. Is deleting the blog extreme? Is the blog meaningless? If I delete this one, would I eventually start another? Should I preserve that old part of me? Will the things I have written here one day be something I look back on? Do they still have value even though I’ve changed? Am I merely clogging up the internet with useless, unnecessary drivel?*^ Is this really what I want; for something that has been a significant part of my adult life to be gone?
As you plainly see, I decided not to remove it. At least right now, I didn’t want it gone. Besides, even if I did, I could always come back and delete it later maybe having preserved the parts I found value in. But I needed to address a few things if I was going to continue. For starters, what did I want the blog to be?
The answer was actually a relatively simple and liberating one. I just wanted it to be a place I could write and share stuff. I didn’t want restrictions anymore. I didn’t want to worry if something fits into the purpose anymore. I just wanted to write honestly about things I think are worth others hearing. I want to record my life as it happens without worry about sounding professional and ‘perfect’ all the time. I want to connect with the world and people who might benefit from seeing someone having the same life issues or misunderstandings as they do. I just want to write and share stuff.
And thus, I started ripping up the rotting boards. I pulled down the tattered sail and recalibrated the rudder**^. I gave the site a name more in tune to the tone and style of the posts, and a tagline which better explains what the blog is actually about. I removed some of the widgets. I refreshed the colours^^*. I kept the core of what the blog had always been about (me, and writing, and living), but I attuned it to my new understanding of what that is. I gave everything a fresh coat of digital paint to represent it’s new place and meaning in my life.
This is a new ship. I stand upon the bow, clean wood beneath my feet and the wind in a billowing white sail. Will I write here more consistently? What will I write about exactly? I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll return in a few days having found the whole thing fruitless. Maybe you’ll come back in a week and everything will be gone. Error 404. This site no longer exists. There is a freedom in thinking that though. Whatever happens, I’ve let go of what this blog was when it started.
I’m ready to just write and see.
~The title sucks, but really I couldn’t think of anything else. Also, cover image can be found here.
*Shortened somewhat, and as I understand it based on my personal research. In some cases, the ship itself was altered by Theseus and his crew. In these instances, the ship is gradually altered en route and is therefore questioned upon its return home. The prevailing story, however, is the one given here. I have added a touch of personal flourish for dramatic effect, as I am want to do. You can believe everything you read on the internet, right? Right!? No, no you can’t. Be sure to do your own research. It’s a fascinating idea, anyway. I encourage you to explore it further.
**I wrote that having started and deleted a very stark segway into exactly that. I added this footnote because I’m proud I managed to redirect back before things got out of hand. Yay me.
***Don’t worry, it’ll all come together.
^Now located at the bottom of the page. You’ll need a torch, a dust buster, and if you don’t enjoy arachnids, some form of non-lethal insect repellent. Also, maybe a hat. You might look good in a hat.
^^ If you exist, here’s a huge shout-out to the hypothetical audience who have put up with almost seven years of my nonsense. I hope it at least has given something back to you even if it’s just a little laugh now and then.
^^^Because you don’t know how many posts you haven’t seen because my perfectionist mindset has prevented me from sharing anything I deem ‘not good enough’, which isn’t always a terrible thing but can be crippling to the joy of writing and sharing. Another problem in the consistently blogging corner.
^* Which was, for anyone including myself who might be reading in the distant future, Life Unwritten. As stated above, I don’t remember exactly why I picked this title, but it the word ‘Unwritten’ itself is taken from a popular-in-my-day Natalie Bedingfield song of the same name.
*^Yeah maybe. But that’s what the internet kind of is. At least 90% is unnecessary if enjoyable, and a good portion of that is drivel.
**^I am making that up; I don’t know if you can recalibrate a rudder. It sounds like a thing, which is why it works in the sentence, but I can’t be bothered to research it. Anyone out there know? Can you calibrate a rudder on ancient Greek ships? Seriously, no idea.
^^*Sorry about the grey writing. The format doesn’t allow me to change the colour, unlike that last one. If I find a way to brighten it up, I will, though that may take some exploring of the formats available.
Souls are places; I’ve always thought about this. A soul can be explored like a place and felt like a place. A soul can be retreated to like a place and intruded upon like a place. A soul can be fragile or strong depending what it is weathering and what it is built upon, just as a place.
I’ve always found my soul to be a castle, the interior of which is an endless library. The castle is high on a rock overlooking a vast sea. Outside it is always night. Too much light would ruin the volumes and volumes packing every available space inside. Books which contain my memories, my knowledge, my ideas. They stretch out into every room of the labyrinthine castle, up into towers and deep into basements. The castle is sturdy. It has to be. The sea brings many storms.
Here in this forever night, it is quiet and still. Here I can be reflective and private, contemplative and questing without noise and distracting light^.
My light is that of bright, but flickering candles and shimmering silver stars.
The library inside the castle is curated by tiny creatures who store away my knowledge and thoughts in volumes of clothbound* books. Everything is lit with a glowing candlelight, warm and comforting.
The highest tower has a glass ceiling where the galaxy of stars can be seen in all their majesty. I keep the door locked. Only I am privy to this place. This is where I seek inner peace and solitude. This is where I recharge. There is a hearth here, and comfortable seats of all kinds. Upon the hearth are the moving images** of those few beings who have touched my soul. The fire is not a fire. Instead, there is a resonating glow, a pure unearthly and unbound light, warming and healing. This is where my soul touches something bigger, something I do not fully understand, but have always felt connected to. The light in the hearth is where my soul touches the Universe***.
The books in this space pertain to my morals, fears, hopes, and truths. They are always expanding. There is also a chest where my deepest secrets are kept. The key is around my neck. It cannot be removed even by me. I have opened the chest for only a few. I have emptied it for none. There will always be a secret in the chest.
There’s a children’s wing filled with toys I loved, imaginary friends who once danced through my life. There is a tree with gold leaves. The books kept here are those that ignited my imagination as a child. Characters come and play here reciting old poems and favourite passages from long lost memories. A shabby treehouse sits between the branches. I know there was a light in there at one point, but it sits dark now. I’m too big to get up the ladder. The child that plays here doesn’t ever go there. Someone sits up there though; sometimes dripping can be heard.
Recently a new wing opened to me. It’s been opened a couple of times before and closed again. I like it here now. Everything is different than what I ever remember it being here before. This place is warm and smells faintly of the sea. There is passion here for many things, for life and love and work and happiness. A man sits here, smiling. He is surrounded by books about sports and sailing, about battles won and lost, and odd snippets of information pertaining to many subjects. This room radiates love. Honest love. Devoted love. Intelligent and respectful love. Though the outer world is always night, here there window which lets sunlight in. Here I can say anything. Even the ugliest shameful parts of me are accepted. Here who I am is always enough.
There are many monsters which roam the library of my soul. They vary in shape and size. One is a pushing, violent thing, with teeth which bite and claws that cut. One is sweet and small and gentle to encourage trust, but it always lies. One is always moving and carries a clock with a dial which spins too fast. It likes to jump out onto the shoulder and whisper maddening prophecies in the ear. The worst is nothing but a blackness which feeds on me when I am not looking. It likes to lurk in places it shouldn’t and is often trying to break into the highest tower.
There are many weapons available to combat the monsters. The weapons are easy to find but hard to wield. Courage is a shining silver sword. There is a humble long-bow which can be armed with arrows made of truth. Acceptance is a shield. Trust is a dagger that must be given away.
Other artefacts reside in the library of my soul. I have a spyglass which allows me to see benefits which may still be far away but are worth waiting or fighting for. This spyglass is patience. It doesn’t have a fixed place and can be hard to locate. There’s a compass for the lost which always points to the heart. There’s a little candle which pops up whenever needed. It’s flame changes; it can be tall and unyielding, or dim and in need of cultivating, but the candle is always lit even if just as an ember. The candle flame is actually a little living thing, made from the hearth fire. It is hope.
A dragon stalks the halls sometimes, which of course breathes fire from time to time. I’ve tamed him somewhat. Right now he is raging beyond my want to control him. I spend energy putting out the blazes, but by the time I get there he has already taken off to some hiding spot to regain his strength. I’ll get around to catching him again soon. At the moment I need the fire a little bit. It’s helping to keep the dark monster at bay.
I’m not sure where the castle ends, there are new places being revealed all the time. There are towers that are shut away and stairways up and down. I may never discover every element of it. I haven’t divulged everything here now even, just that which I needed to remember. Just that which needed to be rediscovered to aid me through recent events.
Perhaps your soul is a carnival or a garden or a humble cottage at the edge of the world. This is only what my soul has always been, a castle library on an unpredictable sea beneath a vast universe.
~The featured image can be found here (I don’t own it, yadda-yadda-yadda) and is the Ravenclaw Common Room (which is ma house. Big up my fellow kind of wit and learning). Honestly, one does not affect the other. It’s just coincidental that this is the nearest comparison to what I’m describing. But that in itself is pretty amazing, I won’t lie.
*Not leatherbound. No animals were harmed in the formation of my soul.
**Much like the paintings in the Wizarding World, although in my renditions, the figures are unable to move between portraits. I’m not sure what this means.
***It occurs to me, I say this a lot but have never really explained it. There could be a post about this in its own right, but for now, I will say the following. The Universe is not a god. I don’t believe in a divine being who wrote a book of rules or came down to greet us in human form. I believe in what I see, a great vast expanse permeating everything, connecting everything. And yes, I hear when it speaks to me, and yes I speak to it. It’s hard to explain, but I do not have to explain. I’m not asking you to understand or to believe. The burden of proof is on me, but I have no proof for what I experience subjectively….. It’s just what I feel. You’ll have to roll with it.
Plymouth Central Library is relocating. Today will be the last day it opens those particular doors to the public. And as I sit here in the old stacks one last time*, I am filled with deep nostalgic sadness.
We go back, this old building and I. Practically back to my first few months in Plymouth when I was naught more than a disillusioned teenager trying to find my feet in my newly independent world**. Initially, I went with an associate in my University course*** trying to find a reference book for an essay, all copies of which had been checked out of the Uni library for weeks, and thus had a waiting list you could march a parade on. Rumour had it, the public library had a few non-lending editions on their stacks. So, we hopped in her car, and went searching.
I didn’t really start using the Library until my final year of Uni, when I lived almost opposite in my studio flat. During the days of not being able to afford the heating, it became a sanctuary of warmth and study, with a quiet room which saw the creation of a significant portion of my dissertation. After Uni, when I lived in my basement room at the noisy centre of the basement, it then saw the crafting of several creative experiments and ghostwriting projects. There is not a corner of the stacks I haven’t hunkered down in at some point, either hunched over a table scribbling or with my nose in fiction. Over my penniless days, I participated in free film screenings^ and book sales, just grateful these things are open and available for impoverished writers with dreams of greatness^^.
There are many memories of my youthful days locked away among the stacks in that building, and while I know the Library is moving not closing, I feel like I am saying goodbye to an old reliable grandmother.
I understand the relocation. If libraries are to thrive in the modern world, they need to adapt to modern standards. The new building is more central, and completely open-plan, leaving behind the rustic, academic atmosphere which, I suppose, can be intimidating to non-academics who just want a place to read and relax^*. Concerns I had about the move have been waylaid by researching what is to become of the now shell in which the library was housed. The plan is to convert the space into part of the History Centre with support from the Museum next door, with ideas of introducing better heritage resources for the community. And the new library appears to have everything its predecessor had, except in a more open and colourful environment.
The only fear I haven’t managed to quell through understanding is what might happen to the stain-glass window. The window on the main stairwell of the library entryway depicts an array of literary figures in the style similar to what you might find in a cathedral, and I have coveted it and been awed by it since I first laid eyes on it.Unfortunately, I’m not sure if they’ll somehow transport the glass over to the new building, maybe incorporate it into the internal decor, but I hope so, and if not, I shall miss it.
Tonight the lights of the library will go off for the last time. The books will be boxed up and moved, and the stacks will be empty, and the quiet room will suddenly be silent in a way that was never intended. For now, here I sit*^, sadder than I thought I would be, staring round at the old familiar rooms, like sitting in a spot of endless time, where all the past and present mes^^* are together feeling and growing in this place in a single moment.
I walked around one last time, remembering. I sat at the last table in the reference room, where I perched many times poised at the keyboard, and I touched the old wood of the shelves, I took out some books and returned some others, just like all those times all those days ago.
I said goodbye to an old friend.
*I really did pen this upstairs in the study room, but I did so the previous Friday to the date of publication. For the sake of drama you can pretend I’m there on the final day of opening, maybe the last to leave those huge studded front doors, a tear wistfully rolling down my cheek, a bittersweet song of memory playing in the background.
**I was not a pretty picture back then by any means.
***Not Creative Writing at the time. This was the year I was trying to make my parents proud by choosing a career path which wouldn’t land me in a box in a dark alley warming myself over a burning kerosene barrel. My mother was genuinely concerned writing would lead to harder drugs, like following my whimsy or joining a circus. Of course, she meant well, and she is actually pretty proud of me now I think.
^Including The Hobbit and Les Miserables, two films based on books which I have read, both of which I borrowed from that library, and both I was pleased I didn’t spend a ton of money attempting to see at the cinema.
^^That was a very youthful ideal; to be honest I think I would’ve been happy with just getting off the ground.
^*And that is the point of the library. Much as the old timey academic ambiance suits serious study, it goes over a lot better if the environment is welcoming to everyone, especially children, and conducive to finding joy in reading and books.
*^ Again, days before. This is beginning to feel like I might have strange time-travelling abilities, but I suppose if I did this wouldn’t be an issue. If anyone out there knows Dr Who, please feel free to point him to this blog. Tell him to come now. I’ll wait….. No, huh? Worth a shot.
^^* Does ‘me’ have a plural? It was either ‘mes’ or ‘mesai’ and the second sounded too Japanese to be right.