Monday, June 24, 2013

The Genius of The Lady Bug

I have never been much of an entomologist, but every so often something small triggers the interest section of our tangential brains. I had heard a cute anecdote about lady bugs and their flight patterns, which naturally led me to endless research on Wikipedia about lady bug folk lore and the history behind why these little bugs are so loved all across the world.

A little knowledge before we proceed to the crux of this post: The coccinelid, or what we commonly refer to in the United States as the Lady Bug, gets its name from the famous mother of Jesus. ‘Lady’ refers to the lady in ‘Our Lady’, which always is in reference to Mary, i.e. Our Lady Peace, Our Lady of Conception, Notre Dame (Our Lady), Our Lady of Sorrows, etc. Why on earth would a tiny bug seemingly bereft of utility be named after the mother of the Lord? Well, Mary was often depicted donning a red cloak in early Christian paintings. Also, most European lady bugs have seven spots. Why is 7 a relevant number? Well, a rudimentary understanding of Catholic beliefs shows us that there exists seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary. The seven joys are:

1.     The Annunciation
2.     The Nativity of Jesus
3.     The Adoration of the Magi
4.     The Resurrection of Christ
5.     The Ascension of Christ into Heaven
6.     The Pentecost
7.     The Coronation of the Virgin

The seven sorrows are as follows:

1.     The circumcision of Christ
2.     The Flight into Egypt
3.     The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple
4.     Mary Meets Jesus on the way to Calvary
5.     Jesus Dies on the Cross
6.     Mary Receives the Body of Christ in her Arms
7.     The Body of Jesus is Placed in the Tomb

So, next time you see a cute little coccinelid you will hopefully think of the plight of poor Mary, or at least the early Christian church’s obsession with numerology and the beatification of Mary.

Now to the crux of the matter; why I think lady bugs are so prodigious. This is not biological fact, but lady bugs have a tendency to land on an object, and before taking off again, they climb to the top of said object. Why does this poke and prod at my curious bone? Because it is as if these little creeping things are smarter than they appear. Why settle for takeoff from one height, when the highest possible point is not much more difficult to reach? Why settle for mediocrity when greatness is but a few steps further? Why settle for a nice view, when a gorgeous view is just a few miles away? Perhaps the modus operandi of this insect is not that complex, but alas I love parallelisms and I think much can be learned by this little beetle of God. Far too often I fall short of greatness because I am just a little too lazy. And far too often I settle for the mediocre, saving greatness for a day that will likely never come. The lesson to be gleaned here is that the difference between good and great is often very subtle and very small. We just have to decide to climb to the top of objects before we fly off. We have to make the conscious decision to dominate life in lieu of just getting through life. I bet that little arthropod had no idea how much it could teach me. Truth is, everything in this vast universe can teach us something if we allow it to. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Broken Windows Theory

I often struggle with the psychological phenomenon known as jamais vu. This is a condition wherein a person will often not recall or recognize something that they have already seen or are already familiar with. It is essentially the opposite of déjà vu. There seems to be a pesky disconnect with all the matter that makes its way into my cranium.  However, every once and a while I will inexplicably connect two seemingly unrelated topics in a beautiful moment of apparent cosmic epiphany. This happened to me during a Sunday School lesson on Sunday. I made a brief note of my impression, and am now expounding on it after further thought.
There exists a very interesting theory within the study of criminology. The theory, known as The Broken Windows Theory suggests that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. In other words, if something small such as a broken window goes unfixed in a neighborhood, further vandalism will probably ensue. Why is this? Because if something in our environment is dirty, unkempt, or broken we have a tendency to not care as much if it gets dirtier or further broken. You would much sooner discard a piece of waste onto the streets of a filthy alley than a squeaky clean street in the Vatican City.
Consequently a vandalized and trash-ridden block becomes a hot bed for criminal activity. It is the butterfly effect in full action. One piece of trash leads to two pieces of garbage, which leads to a broken window, which leads to three broken windows, which leads to a break-in, which leads to a murder. And in this manner crime waves are created. It is an insidious cycle. Studies have shown that a rapid repair of a broken window or a swift removal of graffiti can prevent crime better than an increase in law enforcement. The theory also claims that making more misdemeanor arrests and essentially focusing on the smaller things first will prevent larger and more heinous crimes from being committed. The theory is a highly polemic issue, but studies in specific cities in the United States have shown it to be valid.
Now I will pose an important question, diverging from the criminological and penological thought. How can I apply this theory to my own personal life? I am not a rundown neighborhood replete with broken windows and defaced murals. But, do I not have parts of my soul that are oft times broken or defaced? Of course I do. We all do. We are all subject to break downs in spirit and character leaving us with tattered remains of what was once clean and unvandalized. So how can we stop the ‘crime waves’ that plague our very souls? I believe the solution is the application of the Broken Windows Theory. We must clean up our lives immediately before they become infested with refuse, and a ‘broken window’ seems like a trivial thing to perhaps be repaired later. How many times do we reason within ourselves that we will stop a bad habit before it becomes an addiction? How often do we let the invidious things of this world enter into our lives because we think they can be cleaned up later? Sometimes they can. But sometimes, unbeknownst to us, a messy room turns into disorder which starts out as purely physical, but soon becomes spiritual. And now our spiritual progress is retarded.         So, let us clean the streets of our lives. Let us no longer peer at that broken window with plans to fix it on the morrow.
Let’s ameliorate our lives by attending to the details and small things first. After all, by small and simple things are great things brought to pass (Alma 37:6).