A Pile of Squirming Fly Guts

A few minutes ago, I killed a fly.

It’s something I’ve done maybe hundreds of times in my life, but this murder was by far the most memorable.

It was a quick slap of my notebook that brought it down, instantly knocking it unconscious on the porch deck and rupturing its body. Out of the tear in the side of its abdomen, a teeming nest of minuscule maggots writhed into plain view.

At least they looked like maggots. In actuality, they were the fly’s guts; the yellow-white portions of its intestinal tract seemed to take on a life of their own, squirming in the sunlight as if newly released from their lifelong home and confused about their lightwashed surroundings.

My disgust gave way to curiosity, and I continued to watch. After a few moments, the guts began writhing so intensely that they rocked the fly’s body back and forth. Meanwhile, a few entrails had found their freedom and were inching across the deck like new worms looking for soil.

What had a few moments ago looked like a single being now looked like an entire community of beings: the fly’s exoskeleton just a shell for its many interdependent inhabitants, which now had no other means of survival without the fly’s other parts.

It was in that moment that my stomach began to grumble. My sensitive gut (which has healed tremendously over the past year) was having problems today. And as it creaked and groaned, I looked down at the living remnants of the dying fly, and I remembered…

(I never quite forget, but sometimes it helps to see it up close.)

We individuals are each a vast world. A system of systems. Our brains (and their sub-regions), our digestive system, our circulatory system… all of them are communities of individual cells, working together to keep entropy at bay. For at least a short while. Until they can pass along their learnings to the next generation.

And we individuals are also part of a larger Body Earth, as interdependent as the parts of our own. If our environment ruptures, we too will squirm helplessly like a pile of fly guts.

When we remember that our bodies are a world, we understand why our various parts don’t always work in harmony (like when our brain tells us to eat a meal that our gut knows is a bad idea).

And when we remember that our world is a body, we understand why it’s so necessary to bring our parts into harmony. Before it’s too late.

A few minutes ago, I killed a fly.