For several days now, as I have been taking my dog for a walk around a pond at the local state park, I have been assaulted by a deer fly (family Tabanidae). The fly always starts buzzing me in the same 30 meter (100 feet) stretch of path, where the acacia trees provide some shade and the winds blow gentle puffs of air.
The fly seems to have a very circumscribed territory. Once I get out of that 30 meter stretch, he breaks off his attack and disappears, only to reappear during my next circuit on that path.
I try to put myself into the world of this fly. I am guessing that his world is encompassed in a plot of land that has a diameter of 30 meters. This is all that he knows. This is all that he sees. At random unpredictable times, potential meals move into range, triggering a hunger response. Outside that range, potential meals vanish, as if they never existed.
With my superior vision, I can see the whole pond, and I can think that it is very quaint that the fly cannot realize that simply going outside his 30 meters would give him more potential meals. He is limited by his perception, in ways that I am not.
But then I think, how much are we humans limited by our perception? Many years ago, I met a farmer who had not traveled more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) from where he had been born 70 years previously. Now many of us travel around the globe fairly effortlessly, and we can use electronic means of perception to see what is happening anywhere in the world.
But our solar system is huge, our galaxy is larger, and our universe is larger still. We can’t see anything of what is happening there, with a few paltry exceptions of Hubbell telescopes and rockets sent to other planets.
Like the fly, our world is circumscribed. We can see much more than the fly, but in the larger scheme of things, our perception does not extend out much more than his, in terms of cosmic distance.
To paraphrase a Hermetic saying, “As below, so above.” We and the fly have much in common. We both can only see a very small portion of reality. And as we delve into quantum physics, we are not very sure what really is reality. Perhaps there are intelligences greater than ours who think that it is very quaint that we cannot realize that by simply going beyond the limits of our current perception we can see a greater reality. Or perhaps not.
I don’t know if the fly worries about such questions. Current scientific thought would suggest that he is not capable of such thoughts. And perhaps we too are not capable of thoughts that would transcend our reality, allowing us to see a larger world.
So what to do? In my case, I am simply going to enjoy my moment in Nature, and even though the fly wants to suck my blood, I am going to enjoy his buzzing, even as I wait for my steps to take me out of his range.