Monday, July 14, 2014

A Couple of Wings and a Furry Little Body

There is a bat in my belfry. Or, at least, where my belfry could be. Actually, I'm not sure where the little creature is at this moment. Somewhere in the cabin. Sleeping upside down, no doubt. Wings folded over his little bat face. Waiting for dark.

Bob is in Austin for a couple of days, so last night I did something I rarely do. I sat and watched TV for several hours. Mindless stuff. You will not be surprised to hear, if you know me well, that I spent those hours watching something other than hard-hitting news shows (which can be mindless, as well). I watched three Hallmark original Christmas movies in a row. Very much like eating cotton candy and reading magazines.

With the only light in the cabin coming from the television, I was well into the third movie when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I thought it might be a really big moth. We get those from time to time, so I didn't worry about it. Then it flew close enough that I felt a little breeze from the leather wings, and I shot out of the chair fast enough to impress myself and irritate my pulled hamstring. I flicked on several lights and waited just a few seconds until I saw the bat, dipping and swerving. He was looking for a way out. So I opened all the upstairs doors and told him in no uncertain terms that we have, in fact, no belfry, and he should depart in peace. I suspect this bat may be deaf in addition to being blind, because he did not oblige. Instead, he found a nice little place to hang at the tippy top of our cathedral ceiling. Maybe he made a connection: cathedral, belfry. Anyway, he did not exit, but moths were entering, so I shut the doors. I found that I could finish the movie (how, oh how, will it end? Will the prince marry the ordinary girl from Buffalo?) by covering my head with a throw blanket. When it was over, I turned off the lights and crept to my bedroom. I laid there thinking about that little creature for a long time. And questions did abound.

Why do we love some creatures ('we' being everyone just exactly like me) and not others? I love butterflies. Moths? Not so much. I love deer but not coyotes. I love geckos and other lizards, but their cousins, the snakes, are not my friends. Bluebirds and hummingbirds make me smile, but buzzards make me shudder. And it isn't just their job in the food chain. What is more beautiful than a cheetah running full tilt? What is uglier than a hyena?

The honing of our opinions of what is beautiful and what is ugly starts so early that I wonder sometimes if it is innate. I know that styles of beauty, admired by society, vary a little from culture to culture, and era to era. But the basics stay the same. When I think about it, I am puzzled by my reaction to the looks of a creature, amazed at the attributes I automatically assume belong to it. Here is the perfect example. I am not alone in my lack of love for...da da da duh...the spider. Spiders are sneaky, secretive and take great joy in scaring me. Some even take it to the extreme and crawl on me, just to prove the point. Spiders have way too many legs. Compare them to another irritating bug, (I said bug, not insect, you scientific minded folk) the mosquito. Mosquitoes carry diseases, live to bite us, and are a terrible pest in many humid climates. But do they make you shiver just by looking at them, like a spider? Well, here is my best argument: was it the mosquito that scared Little Miss Muffet away? I rest my case.

I know we humans extend the bias, the assumptions of characteristics, to other humans. If someone is very beautiful, it is not a stretch to think they are also well read, or at least moderately educated. If some is very ugly, we may not give them that same benefit of the doubt. Yet, I have met very beautiful people who are so self centered that their character has no beauty. And I have met very ugly people who have risen above the difficulty of bias and achieved great things. I have also met beautiful people who astound me with their generous spirit, and ugly people who have such a mean-spirited nature that I can only hope to protect myself from them.

We can say all we want about beauty being skin deep. And, that our true work as humans is to be good stewards of the body and mind we've been given. But my little furry friend in the upper reaches of the cabin ceiling didn't get to choose between his nocturnal life and more favored one of a cute little chipmunk. None of us choose our bone structure, height, coloring (well, we do get to choose our hair!!!) etc. We don't choose how big our feet are, how wide our shoulders. We do get to choose our character, though.

I guess my point is that I want to have a more unbiased eye for all creation. Especially for my own species. I hope the bat won't make my heart race with unfounded fear. I am pretty sure he was not a vampire bat. Too small. And I want to apply Forrest Gump's mother's wisdom to all things. Handsome is as handsome does. I'm trying to reserve judgement on the bat. Now, if he will just listen to reason and go out the door.

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