Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Squish. (Ugh): See, They're Harmless. Just Really Ugly and Disgusting

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

Squish. (Ugh): See, They're Harmless. Just Really Ugly and Disgusting

Article excerpt

It's that special season again. The time when nature spreads its vociferous colors everywhere, igniting the world with the delicate striations of crimson and yellow, the haughty hues of vermilion, and the flaming tincture of auburn. It's a veritable explosion of color.

Or maybe it's just bug guts.

Whatever you call it, it's all over your windshield, because the cicadas are back and they're just as stupid as they were the last time. They're loud, they're ugly, and they like your head. And it doesn't help to shout "Look, I'm not a cicada!" or "but I barely know you!" When you're a cicada, the heart wants what the heart wants. Or is it the thorax?

These bugs shouldn't even be here, since they" seem to defy Darwin's law of natural selection. They" have no means of defense, no ability to hide, and they don't know danger when it's diving at them with wide open beaks. The phone lines in my neighborhood are sagging under the weight of birds who should have said "when" before they ate another one of those pudgy little casseroles with wings,

But you've got to feel sorry for the lowly cicadas. They gestate for 17 years, then emerge from the ground in search of nothing more than a little companionship, which they've got to find quickly, since they only live a couple weeks. Hardly enough time to enjoy the fullness of life: the brash risk-taking of youth, the challenges of adulthood, or the sweet reminiscences of old age. ("I remember last Tuesday. Now, those were the days.")

Nope. They dig their way to the surface and, like a college boy at Daytona Beach, desperately start searching for a mate. Same desperation, but without the beer. (My parents live near Daytona and are happy to report they rarely have to serape college boys off their windshield, except occasionally in the spring.)

But can we really criticize the passionately hopeless behavior of cicadas? After all, they're going on reflex, not experience. For cicadas, there is no communal body of knowledge to share, no oral history, no parental advice on how to live their short lives. For years the male lies alone in the ground thinking "I hope she likes me," not even knowing what she looks like. And they usually guess wrong. …

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