The snout-nosed butterflies are swarming across the county. Their caterpillars eat the leaves of the hackberry tree. Once they’ve exhausted an area’s food supply, they take flight en masse like avatars of autumn, brown and orange wings and twig like bodies fluttering. These falling leaves have a form, a shape, a life energy. They flow.
It’s hard to think of the importance of politics against the backdrop of the natural world, how small it all is. When we are all dust, there will still be butterflies as indifferent to our histories as leaves on the wind. So, I am loathe to waste my energy describing political moments and individuals currently engorging themselves upon the main stage of human society until such a time as the cocoon breaks and the final form reveals itself.
So, let’s talk about the form of this particular insect. He is orange and vile and has a long history of disgusting, destructive behavior. If the godless can have a soul, it would be found in the spirit of movement and direction, the weight of all those little actions and decisions and influences, that accumulate into the shadow of a man – the energy and influence that continues to move when the body is displaced upon the landscape. Our actions and gestures make shadows that we cannot see, footprints or echoes or something in between them. So, even an atheist, avowed, can speak of having soul. I have no reason to believe Trump is intellectually capable of grappling even with his nihilistic brand of atheism. It’s all flowing over his head. And, he is fundamentally wired to misunderstand and abuse his place in time and space.
The pundit class has yet to home in on the most damning thing Trump has said, during the recent debate. It was an off-the-cuff, unprepared remark that carried the secret truth as only those sorts of remarks can. It was also a backpedaling defense, so the snake was recoiling into the lair of fundamental morals that he assumes we all share. To him, it is the obvious thing and anyone would understand it. This is who he is, and where he comes from.
Clinton challenged the notion that business skills translate directly to government service. Trump responded while backing away and defending himself and these off-the-cuff, unprepared words tumbled out of his facehole wrapped in nonsense and confusion:
“My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies.”
Make a list right now of all of the people to whom you are obligated. My list includes my family, my employees, my companies, absolutely. It also includes myself. Consider again the order of the tongue. The first obligation he bears is to himself. His family is next, after himself. If he threw a child under a proverbial bus to gain an advantage for himself, do you think he would do it? Would he negotiate it? How big of a bus? How long would they have to live it down? He certainly throws employees over heartlessly, and the companies that rely on him have all paid the price in shorted contracts and lawsuits and breech of trust.
And, there is no sense of the cosmic in that order. There is only the human, the reflections of the self, the things that work for the self or carry the name of the self. There is nothing in that list that is not part of the aggrandizing of the man at the center of his everything.
My obligation, in all I do, is first to my sense of piety and universal order – call it Christianity or Agnosto-Taoistic-Druidism or some strange hybrid of all faiths wrapped in a wreath of rosemary flowers. First, I am obligated to the shadow I cast upon history, how my life touches all lives. Second, I am obligated to my family. I am obligated to my community, which includes animals and insects and people and trees. I am obligated to everything by myself. The self is an illusion of vanity. At least, the terms that the orange shadow uses is only an illusion. There is more to life, more mystery and depth and grace, than has ever been even remotely attempted by this particular orange scam machine.
To whom are you obligated first?
The shadow of the butterflies falls at night, when their wings aren’t warm enough to fly and they cannot see. The lightning bugs of late summer come, calling out for love in the dark. There is a world beyond our petty philosophies as indifferent to us as if we do not exist at the center of any story at all in this universe. This is not to say that we must create ourselves a universal center inside our vanity, but to suggest that anyone who does so is fundamentally broken at a deep, spiritual level, and they will never heal, and when they die, the orange stain upon the ground will be consumed by what is real until it was never there. The base of voters that support this beast? They will die, too. They will all die. So will we. In a thousand years, no one will remember our names. The spirit of justice, though, will move through time, and through those brave souls that pushed it along. Justice swarms like butterflies, devouring one forest, then fluttering on to the next profusion. I prefer to think of myself as one of those living leaves upon the wind, pushing into the sky towards the tiniest places where my little pen, little voice, little work will be part of the thing that builds the whole forest ecosystem, in all its green mass and beauty.