The Persistence of Moths …

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“Are there moths on the way to the sun right now going, “It’s gonna be worth it!”?”  (Bill Hicks)

Now, there’s a question!

It’s a delightfully silly thing to ask, and is perhaps an uncharacteristic piece of whimsy from Hicks, but it did make me think …

How many times have you seen moths bumping and banging up against light bulbs, light fitting, lanterns etc?  Don’t they ever learn?  For goodness sake, they’ll even fly into UV lights that kill them!  Seriously, are there moths heading towards the sun …?

Apparently, moths are apparently subject to something called phototaxis – “an organism’s automatic movement towards or away from light” (according to – and, there are several ideas as to why this should be so.

First, there is the idea that moths navigate by the light of the silvery moon, to a greater or lesser extent; so any sufficiently bright light – your torch, your lamp, your lantern for instance – is enough to disorient them and cause them to head straight at it.

Second there’s the idea that moths have an in-built “escape mechanism” that means they would fly towards a light (the idea being that light generally comes from above so the moth is programmed to launch itself upwards – towards light).

Also, there is the idea that the light actually dazzles the moths – like when we look at a bright light, we get an after image burnt in our vision for a while; apparently for moths it is a lot worse, taking much longer to recover their ability to see in the dark, so they’re reluctant to leave the light.

Whatever the mechanism is, doesn’t really matter to me as much as the idea that there is something in moths that pulls them towards the light, something that keeps them there, something that compels them to keep flying towards the light.

In the Bible, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) and for me there is sometimes that sense that I’m caught in a moth-like response to what Jesus says, and teaches, and does in Scripture, and the experiences of Him and His Spirit now.

There’s a feeling of the ‘phototaxic’ movement about it – maybe I do ‘navigate’ unconsciously by what I know and understand of the Scriptures; and yes, there is a sense of getting my “escape mechanism” right, fleeing towards the light rather than cockroach-like scurrying for the darkness and shadows in time of crisis.  And, yes, there is certainly more of a sense now that I don’t want to wander too far from this source of all illuminating light back into the shadows and the dark – maybe I am somewhat dazzled, but I prefer to think that I’m able to see further into the dark with the light at my back.  Maybe, that close to the source I can even reflect it and be  a little bit of a “light on a hill” or even part of “a light to the Gentiles”

In the past, I’ve sat in (seemingly) endless lectures at bible college, reading, studying, dissecting, deconstructing and exegeting the Scriptures – the “lamp to our feet and light to our path” that Psalm 119 talks about – trying to understand them in some way.  Now I’m more inclined to think that this sort of approach is like trying to understand how a moth can fly by pulling off its wings and putting them under a microscope – yes, you’ll see the incredible intricacy and structure, and the amazing array of colours, but, essentially, all you’ll end up with is a dead moth!

Maybe it’s more sensible to take an approach that doesn’t go all “chapter and verse” when faced with a thorny issue – rather we should look at whatever issue it is in the full and dazzling clarity, character, shape and colour of the ‘light.’  It doesn’t make for quick and easy answers … but it also means there’s still the chance to fly.

And, if there’s the chance to fly, to fly towards the Son …


I’d so love it if there were moths on the way to the sun right now …

Feel free to use the image above …


3 responses to “The Persistence of Moths …

  1. Thanks for this piece. Most moths (not all) fly at night, so perhaps not many are on their way to our nearest star. At night though there is always the possibility of seeing the moon. When we see that, it is the reflection of the sun that attracts us. In the same way, we are the reflection of the Son.
    Matt 5:14-16
    You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand — shine!
    (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

  2. Pingback: Amazing ‘dead leaf mimic ‘ | I N N E R D I A L E C T·

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