Mon., May 7, 42 A.B.

Secular Antism

I recently dropped my mind into the Belief-o-Matic.

It ended up telling me that I'm a secular humanist.

And I guess I am a secular humanist, but...  I'm not sure that's all I am, or that that's the best description of any single part of me.  Such surveys seem to hide as much as they reveal because they unfairly limit the possibilities and oversimplify the complexities of people and life.  I suppose I could truthfully answer another survey which asked things like "Do you have two parallel sides?  Do you display vertical symmetry?" and end up being told that I'm an upended rectangle.  I may well be, but if my belief that I'm actually King of the Rhombuses doesn't hurt anybody, why the hell shouldn't I continue to cling to it?

I know, I know - because the actual King of the Rhombuses is liable to come along and kick my ass.  I mean, it's always something with those high-falutin' geometric shapes, isn't it?


Just so there's no misunderstanding: I've decided that I'm actually a secular antist.

I rediscovered this fact about myself two weeks ago last Saturday when I spotted the first ants of the season scurrying across my patio.

That was April 21 - a day of wanton joy and celebration, as First Ant Day always is in the Birtcher household.  I would have written about it sooner, but... well, I'm sure YOU are a great person and someone I can trust, but one never knows who else might be reading these entries and...  I would have died heart-broken had anyone come and stolen all my ants after I'd
idiotically alerted the world to their re-emergence.  Now that their numbers have grown large enough to resist easy scooping, however, the full story can be told.

In fact, I just told it.

Except for this:  Seeing the ants scurrying across my patio reminded me that a large part of my being (perhaps the largest part) might best be
called a secular antist.  You know - someone who believes in ants, fully supports the struggles of ants, and often wishes he himself could be an ant.

Ok, so admittedly I don't like to scurry.  And I have trouble keeping track
of two feet, let alone six.  The fact remains, I DO like to saunter, sidle,
and sashay.  Given the opportunity to leave a chemical trail behind me, who knows what I might not be capable of??

If that opportunity did present itself - if I woke up tomorrow as the ant I've long dreamt of being, or I got a call from out of the blue telling me that the local anthill would like to add me to their staff - what would I do?  I'd seize that opportunity, of course, and start spending every waking moment as I've always wanted to:  Roaming the earth searching for neat things to come back and tell all my peers about.

I'm thinking sweet things here - not worms.  I mean, let's get real.

Mmmmm, how nice it must be to set out every morning with just ONE
thing in your head: "Must find sweet things!"  In my case, that might be slightly altered to "Must find sweet facts!  Data!  INFORMATION!"  And then I'd go out and search my back yard for that which I crave.

When I found a delicious morsel of information - like the latitude and longitude of the prettiest pebble - I wouldn't keep it all to myself.  Oh, no!  I would sidle or sashay right back to the nest and tell everyone so that they could follow me back to that pebble and enjoy it, too.  Ants are like that,
you know.  Sharers.  And so am I.  It's really a wonder that my doctor hasn't classified me as an ant after even a cursory physical examination of my ways and means....

Besides the irrepressible urge to search, find, and share, ants have lots
of other things going for them.  Like, they get to sleep all winter.  YES!
And when something bad happens?  Like when an anthill gets flooded or kicked to pieces?  Ants don't stand around bitching about it.  They don't appoint a blue ribbon panel to assign blame, or grab their torches and go looking for a scapegoat to burn at the stake.  NO!  They just set about making things right.

Can you believe it??

Added bonus:  Ants get to fly up in the air to mate.  Humans can break a leg just trying to get to a flat surface fast enough when a mating
opportunity presents itself.  Now, really - which would you rather do?

But WAIT - there's more!  Male ants die after mating - which pretty much eliminates both post-coital melancholy AND the need to pay child support.

Ready to sign up yet?  Well, bud, the line starts on my back sidewalk, third crack from the sedum.

Just be sure to read the fine print before putting pen to paper.  If you're a
pacifist like I am, make that clear lest you wake up tomorrow as an army ant.  And personally, I intend on making it clear as well that I'd prefer not
to end up as a member of the Dolichoderus tribe - you know, the one that makes its nests out of South American animal feces.  But with some
8000 species of ants out there one could be assigned to, I'm not going to worry about it even if things are run on some sort of random lottery system.  If you're a firm opponent of abortion, however, you might want to opt out altogether since certain species (including those of the infamous Formica genus) eat their own eggs.

Just for the record, if I can't be a happy little collector of fascinating back yard tidbits, my second choice is to be a placid aphid farmer.  As you
may well know, the so-called honey ants tend aphids the way humans
tend cows.  Instead of grazing on grass, however, the aphids are herded up the stems of plants and allowed to feast on certain botanical fluids.  I rather fancy myself one of those lucky ants that periodically come along, gently stroke the aphids' abdomens with an antenna, and collect the honeydew the aphids secrete in response.  I imagine it's kinda like having your own living, breathing soda fountain - and I haven't seen one of those since my old drugstore went out of business years ago.  Ahhh, nutrition and  nostalgia, all wrapped up in one tiny, roaming little bundle.  How could I ever resist??

And when I'm done for...  no worries about high-priced burials which mar the landscape or gaudy cremations which look lousy on postcards and contribute to global warming.  No - encasement in amber is my dream.  Research has proven time and again that this dream is far more likely to come true if you happen to be an ant than a human.  I mean, did you know that not even Lincoln's request that he be covered in tree sap and left to harden was honored after his passing?  And yet countless ants have
ended up in a magically yellow, translucent substance as a matter
of course.

It really is a funny world, but I daren't laugh at it too loudly for fear of being thrown off...    

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                        (©This Season by DJ Birtcher and a few
                       of his new friends, one tiny grain at a time)