Spores from the parasitic fungi called the cordyceps infects an insects brain and directs the insect upwards towards the forest canopy where it latches onto a plant to eventually die.
After growing for about 3 weeks within the dead insect, the cordyceps unleashes spores into the forest, infecting other insects within the immediate area. There are thousands of different types of cordyceps fungi and each specialise in just one type of insect species.
My sister was a very cheerful young woman, a child. She dressed her cats, loved animals and later slapped insect-killers. She also liked pickles, chips in the coffee, perfumed talc and her chihuahua. She was a little extravagant girl who could dance all night, never drank or smoked, but was also sometimes a little desperate for attention. François Truffaut himself often said that he had to be patient with her and that his strong personality belied her fragile and romantic physique. He sent his letters addressed to ‘Raspberry Dorléac’ to make sure they’d be read with a smile.
So I was ringing this old lady up at the register (I work in the Garden center at Walmart) and she put some insecticide and cupcakes on the check out and she was like
“Just the normal stuff, insect killer and cupcakes” and she laughed a little and my response was
“ Well mix em together and you’ll end up with someones life insurance”
And I just….
The fuck is wrong with me?
Humans like to pretend they’re the dominant form of life on earth, but they aren’t. Not even close, in fact. Sure, to be certain, we put agriculture on the map in ways other animals never have. We’re incredible earth movers and climate changers, creating entire lakes or bodies of land where nothing existed there before, cultivating entire jungles full of rare plants just because we think they’re pretty… but we’re still not the winners here.
The dominant form of life on earth is mosquitoes. Hands down, mosquitoes. You, a human, likely have a little green yard full of carefully cultivated grass that used to be open wilderness. You have a little grill- maybe even a pool if you’re lucky. You think you’re on top. There are no predators for miles.
But then one day you find that you cannot use your perfectly domesticated lawn. Because there are too many fucking mosquitoes out that day. Mosquitoes defy control, blooming in horrific numbers despite our mad attempts at destroying them, even when we end up hurting ourselves or other creatures in the process.
Today, despite my thick greasy layer of insect repellant, I was eaten alive. Think of the worst city you’ve been in, or the worst crowd, full of pushy, insensitive people that are constantly in your way and in your face. Now replace all of them with mosquitoes and you have my day. I am willing to try anything, and I mean anything, to repel the little bastards. I considered carrying a lantern with a citronella candle in it everywhere. I will wear the worst most toxic essential oil or insect killer and gladly get cancer and die from it if it meant not having to deal with those awful little beings again.
Alone, their lives are brief and pointless, but as a swarm they become a mighty scourge. They move the earth movers. They are unquestionably the boss here. We’ve already lost this war.
There were years when I failed the majority of my classes. This was not a matter of my being better suited for the liberal arts than sciences. I was an English minor in college. I failed American Literature, British Literature, Humanities, and (voilà) French. The record of failure did not end until I quit college to become a writer. My explanation for this record is unsatisfactory: I simply never saw the point of school. I loved the long process of understanding. In school, I often felt like I was doing something else.
Like many black children in this country, I did not have a culture of scholastic high achievement around me. There were very few adults around me who’d been great students and were subsequently rewarded for their studiousness. The phrase “Ivy League” was an empty abstraction to me. I mostly thought of school as a place one goes so as not to be eventually killed, drugged, or jailed. These observations cannot be disconnected from the country I call home, nor from the government to which I swear fealty.
I will confess to having very little experience with fence-patrolling, and virtually none with the idea that if you are holding a book, you are “acting white.” The Baltimore of my youth was a place where white people rarely ventured. It would not have occurred to anyone I knew to associate reading with white people because very few of us knew any. And I read everything I could find: A Wrinkle In Time, David Walker’s Appeal, Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight, Seize The Time, Deadly Bugs and Killer Insects, The Web of Spider-Man. I had a full set of Childcraft. I loved the volume Make and Do. I had a full set of World Book encyclopedias. I used to pick up the fat “P” edition, flip to a random page, and read for hours. When I was just 6 years old, my mother took me to the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Garrison Boulevard and enrolled me in a competition to see which child could read the most books. I read 24 that summer, far outdistancing the competition. My mother smiled. The librarian gave me candy. I was very proud.
For carrying books in black neighborhoods, in black schools, around black people, I was called many things—nerd, bright, doofus, Malcolm, Farrakhan, Mandela, sharp, smart, airhead. I was told that my “head was too far in the clouds.” I was told that I was “going to do something one day.” But I was never called white. The people who called me a nerd were black. The people who said I was going to “do something one day” were also black. There was no one else around me, and no one else in America then cared. This was not just true of me, it was true of most black children of that era who were then, and are now, the most segregated group in this country. Segregation meant many of us had to rely on traditions closer to home.
And at home I found a separate culture of intellectual achievement. This is the tradition of Carter G. Woodson, Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X. It argues for education not simply as credentialism or certification, but as a profound act of auto-liberation. This was the culture of my childhood and it gave me some of the greatest thrills of my youth.
I was a boy haunted by questions: Why do the lilies close at night? Why does my father always say, “I can dig it"? And who really killed the dinosaurs? And why is my life so unlike everything I see on TV? That feeling—the not knowing, the longing for knowing, and the eventual answer—is love and youth to me. And I have always preferred libraries to classrooms because the wide open library is the ultimate venue for this theater. This culture was reinforced by my parents, and the politically conscious parents around me, and their politically conscious children. The culture was so strong that it could be regarded as a kind of social capital. It was so old that it could also be regarded as a legacy. This legacy is more responsible for my presence in these august pages than any other. That is because a good writer must ultimately be an autodidact and take a dim view of credentials. My culture failed to make me into a high-achieving student. It succeeded at making me into a writer.
I have never had much of an urge to brag about this. I have always known that in failing to become a scholastic achiever, I forfeited knowledge of certain things. (A mastery of Augustine comes to mind.) But what I did not understand was that I had also forfeited a culture, which is to say a tool kit, a set of pins and tumblers that might have unlocked the language which I so presently adore.
Scholastic achievement is sometimes demeaned as the useless memorization of facts. I suspect that it has more to offer than this. If you woke my French literature professor at 2 a.m., she could recite the deuxième strophe of Verlaine’s “Il Pleure Dans Mon Coeur.” I suspect this memorization, this holding of the work in her head, allowed her to analyze it and turn it over in ways I could only do with the text in front of me. More directly, there is no real way for an adult to learn French without some amount of memorization. French is a language that obeys its rules when it feels like it. There is no unwavering rule to tell you which nouns are masculine, or which verbs require a preposition. Memory is the only way through.