Pas de deux

dancing grass

All afternoon, the brown moth hanging head-down a few inches off the floor resists the advances of the house spider, beating her wings in a more and more restricted span as the spider adds thread after thread to the growing shroud. At the other end of the web, an egg sac the same color as the moth sways and trembles. The spiders soon to be born, the moth soon to be interred in a second cocoon — neither knows anything about their partner in this dance. Who’s to say we too aren’t joined to some unimaginable counterpart we’ll never meet?

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

7 Comments


  1. That photo is riveting. Some kind of grassy dance of ecstasy, I was thinking. Hard to look away. And then I read your words, which pulled me in a completely different direction with a morbidly fascinating question to mull. Looking back at the photo, I see it differently now. It is all in the perspective, isn’t it.

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  2. Yes, for who’s to say that what we can’t imagine doesn’t exist outside ourselves?

    Then again, why and how could the existence of this unimaginable and detached entity matter to us, if we received no visceral impression of it? What does it mean for a thing to be unimaginable?

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  3. mb – I’m glad you liked the photo. I caught sight of that grass bobbing in the wind right outside the wondow where I write, just as I put the finishing touches on this strange little post. I wasn’t sure it would fit, because it is so much more joyful than the content of the post, but i guess there’s a yin-yang thing going on, maybe. Anyway, thanks for commenting.

    SLB – Welcome. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You ask just the right questions, i think! I’m too tired to hazard a reply right now, but maybe in the morning I’ll feel up to it, if no one else jumps in first.

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  4. “What does it mean for a thing to be unimaginable?”
    Perhaps I need more coffee…but I just can’t imagine what it means.

    :-)

    I love the pull and push of this post — as MB says, the image took me one way, the words another darker way.

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  5. To the moth and spiders, it doesn’t matter at all. But for human beings, I think it’s crucial to keep trying to imagine the unimaginable — otherwise, even the familiar can become lost to us. SLB’s phrase “visceral impression” is apt here; mere intellectual knowledge does not suffice. The very cerebral Argentine poet Roberto Juarroz once wrote this to his wife (translation by Mary Crow):

    I turn to your side
    in bed or in life,
    and I find that you are impossible.
    I then turn toward myself
    and I find the same thing.
    Therefore,
    even though we love the possible,
    we end up by shutting it in a box,
    so that it will no longer get in the way of this impossible
    without which we can’t get on together.

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  6. I love the question, what does it mean to be unimaginable. Something just on the other side of my imagination, beyond my grasp and attention at the moment. Haven’t I described things as unimaginably beautiful, when I have found something just so. A thing I would have never guessed possible, is.

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