These fascinating insects sculpture the shit that they gather into perfect balls, rolling those balls of dung in front of them, feasting on them and using them as breading pods. Now it was scientifically proven that dung beetles constantly keep an eye on the stars and that’s why they always walking in straight lines!
Sidestepping the irony, look: Dung beetles are just like people – they eat shit, keep shit rolling and look heavenward for guidance.
No wonder the ancient Egyptians worshiped them. They believed that Khepri ( Scarab-god) renewed the sun every day before rolling it above the horizon, then carried it through the other world after sunset, only to renew it, again. There must’ve been lots of orange-colored shit strewn around in ancient Egypt, and plenty of rollers dung beetles to enjoy it. Curiously enough, Dung Beetle was also considered a symbol of the Scholar on the Path to Higher Wisdom. Another snarky metaphor is asking to be hatched here: No matter what kind of shit you learn, roll it up in a nice ball and push forward. Call it Wisdom if you must.
Contemporary Russian writer Victor Pelevin in his The Life of Insects used this metaphor/simile/irony to the full artistic advantage. His protagonists are interchangeably humans and insects. Great book, although perhaps its gist would make more sense to the Russian readers, particularly the Russians in Russia.
I just learned that the English translation of the book is available since 2011. I haven’t seen it and have no opinion of the quality or the artistry of the translation. But I’m happy to offer you my own version of a few hilarious dung-beetle-related lines from The Life of Insects.
Note: “Ai” in the text below should sound like pronoun “I”, and carry the same “meta-meaning”.
Here we go:
“What was that word you just said?” the boy asked.
“Ai. It’s a sacred Egyptian syllable that dung-beetles use to call their ball of dung for thousands of years,” father answered solemnly. “Your Ai is still small, but it’ll grow larger and larger as time passes. Your mother and I gave you some of the dung, but soon enough you’d learn to find it on your own.”
“And where would I find shit,” the boy asked.
“Everywhere,” said the father, and pointed his finger at the mist.
“But, dad, there isn’t any shit out there.”
“Quite to the contrary, there isn’t anything but shit out there.”
“I don’t understand,” said the boy.
“I’ll explain. You must have Ai, and then everything around you turns to shit, and the whole world will be yours. And you’ll push and roll it forward.”
“How’s that possible, to roll the whole world forward?”
The boy’s father wrapped his arms around the ball of shit and pushed it forward, slightly. “This, my boy, is the whole world.”
“Still, I don’t understand how a ball of shit could be the whole world. Or how the whole world could become a ball of shit.”
* * *
And so it goes. Other words, get your shit together, boy, and keep the world rolling. In no time at all, it’ll turn to one huge ball of shit. And like Sisyphus, you’ll be blindly pushing your ball of dung before you, and many others like you, many “whole worlds” coming together into one huge BALL OF SHIT.
Paraphrasing Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, “Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a dung-beetle, or whether I am now a dung-beetle, dreaming I am a man.” Zhuangzi was talking of butterflies when he said that. Ah, well…
P.S. The feature image for this post (Dung Beetle Rolling The Green Ball) is a fragment from the image found on the Russian site cartoonbank.ru: See the original. The site attributes the picture to Victor Bogorad (In Russian: Виктор Богорад). You might’ve noticed the logo of the site etched across the green ball.