Lessons from a Mayfly

This is a mayfly:

Photograph of a greenish mayfly.

an aquatic insect belonging to the order Ephemeroptera. It usually hatches from spring to autumn in large numbers, and it is noted for two things:

  1. its fully winged terrestrial pre-adult stage (the subimago) which moults into a sexually mature adult (the imago), and
  2. its really short lifespan.

For males, life can be as long as two days, whereas for females life is a matter of just five minutes. So if we put ourselves into a mayfly’s shoes, our life would basically be a fast succession of events from start to finish. We’d have to be born, grow and develop, produce offspring and die within a time frame that, besides being incredibly brief, makes us ponder upon the question: Why even bother existing?

Luckily for us, our good pal the mayfly seems to know why we should. Thus, to understand its reasoning, let’s study a tidy bit about it.

From the moment it hatches, a mayfly finds life to be a reason for joy. It likes to play a lot with its fellow mayflies, as well as resting itself upon any tree or flower of its fancy. But the finest hours for the mayfly happen from dusk till dawn. As a lover of the dim light these hours produce, it is likely to be seen dancing in swarms, a few metres above water and with a clear open sky up above, as it performs a dance of courtship. And so special a dance this is that no mayfly shares the same up and down movement of its wings, producing with every strum a melody that speaks of its uniqueness.

Photograph of a mayfly swarm dancing.

And this is how it goes for the rest of a mayfly’s time on Earth, prancing around and being gay until the last of its minutes.

What about us then? Us, human beings, who have got a lot more than just a day or two to live. What do we get to do with our time? Do we admire the luminosity of our dusks and dawns? Do we dance under the Sun to the tune of our own song? Do we find ourselves excited about simple, yet profoundly meaningful things?

Do we?

I doubt it.

Most of us just go through our days without minding them much, allowing life to become a matter of promised tomorrows. And these tomorrows find themselves romanticised by our own hopeful desires, for it is only in the tomorrow that we see ourselves happy and in a position where everything seems to be alright.

But tomorrow never comes.

Tomorrow is nothing more than a fragile dream that was never meant to be accomplished. And then comes the day in which we abruptly wake up to realise this ungrateful truth, blaming our failures on everything and everyone but ourselves.

Photograph of an upset baby.

But why? Why wait on tomorrow? Why don’t we, instead, let ourselves the pleasure of being a mayfly? Not in terms of lifespan, but in regards to its presence. For that’s the lesson the mayfly teaches us: to be present.

And yes, I know life for us isn’t as short or as undemanding as that of the mayfly’s, making their focus on the present seemingly easier to achieve. But are we truly tackling the subject from the correct perspective here? After all, we’re still part of this world for only a brief moment. One that rapidly fades into oblivion. And the matters we face, as problematic as they can seem, are only made so by us. Thus, it is only upon us to waste our hours away.

We only have a small temporal window after all, and we should properly acknowledge its value. Not only because we’re oblivious to what happens before or what comes, but also because all we know is the life we’re given. And for all of its good and bad, the time we’ve got to experience our lives is limited. Limited by both the Universe and ourselves. And although we can’t do anything about the former, we can affect the latter.

That’s why we should have the need to be present. Present in our days, our experiences, our learnings, our new discoveries, our doings, our feelings, but, above it all, present in ourselves.

So allow yourself the pleasure of living in and for the present. Of making life matter now and not later. Of making the things you experience worth of the memories of yesterday, not tomorrow. And of letting yourself, regardless of length, live the best possible times within the life you’ve now got.

Photograph of two teddy bears embracing each other.

Thanks for the read. 

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