Traps Into Which We Fall

Did you hear about the Ladybug Swarm in California that was big enough to show up on weather radar? This happened on June 6, 2019.

At first, meteorologists thought it was a giant rain cloud on the radar. Then they asked spotters on the ground about it and discovered it was actually an enormous swarm, or bloom, of ladybugs. The bloom, was estimated to be about 80 miles by 80 miles and moving quickly across San Bernardino County.

I saw online that many people were talking about how fortuitous this was for the people in the area, that it presaged a huge spiritual significance for the people. After all, if you look up ladybug animal totem, you will find that ladybug means joy, luck, change and transformation.

Is that the case with this bloom? Maybe so, maybe not. I think it's presumptive for us to assume the bloom was expressly for the benefit of humans. Ladybugs do what ladybugs do, which  doesn't mean they're doing it for the purpose of serving humankind.

According to the National Park Service, California is actually known for its hearty ladybug population, and June tends to be a good time to see them in action. Ladybug eggs hatch in March and April. Once the larvae have matured, they begin their migration to the mountains in late May or early June.

So at least at surface value, it appears this is a ladybug thing, done because a ladybug is in a ladybug bloom.

Traps We Can Fall Into

Trap #1 Entitlement

In attempting to build right relationship with the animals we need to be aware of traps we can unwittingly fall into. While our intent may be to come from a place of right relationship, the impact of that intent may be harmful, even crippling and demeaning to the animals. This is because of the way we’ve been socialized to be human-centric. 

One trap we can fall into is entitlement. That’s when the human perceives themselves as deserving of unearned privileges, which leads to the unfound conclusion that the human has permission to take whatever they want. This way of thinking stems from our history of colonialism. If you’re not sure what colonialism means, google it. 

Entitlement naturally leads to expectation. When I feel entitled to something, I expect it will turn out the way I want it to. 

So, when people feel the reason for the ladybug bloom is all about what the ladybugs can do for humans, such as giving humans a significant spiritual boost, that’s entitlement. That’s robbing the ladybugs of doing ladybug related activities and making it all about the humans.

Trap #2 Appropriation

Another trap is appropriation. This is where the elements of a minority culture are adopted by members of the dominant culture. The people of the dominant culture seek to participate in use, claim and/or profit from native practices, without showing an understanding or respect of that culture. Again, part of colonialism. 

Unless you grew up in and were part of a culture that worked with animals in an indigenous way, the use of a phrase like ‘spirit animal’ or ‘totem animal’ is cultural appropriation.  Why is this important to realize? Because the impact of using those terms commodifies and erases the realities of the indigenous culture from which those terms originate.

Personally, I grew up in a family heavily influenced by southern baptist believes and as an adult I was baptized as a lutheran. I can tell you for a fact that neither of those cosmologies have a central core that includes animism, spirit animals or totem animals. 

Appreciation vs Appropriation

Cultural appreciation is taking the time to learn about the different cultures and traditions. It is enjoying the knowledge from different cultures while giving credit to the source.

Cultural appreciation is valuing without claiming

So here’s the can of worms we’re dealing with:

We live in a time where in order to change the world, we need to learn to be in right relationship with the world around us.

Many are being called to participate in this change and many are trying to answer that call as they best know how. 

Unfortunately, with the majority of us not growing up in indigenous cultures but in white, colonized cultures, we don’t have the lived, daily ancestral experiences that can point us in the direction of right relationship, nor do we have elders to whom we can look to for guidance. 

Still, we need to learn how to be in right relationship with the beyond human sentient beings without appropriating from the different indigenous cultures and without feeling entitled to having a relationship with those beings.

How Can This Be Done?

The other night I was listening to an episode of Oprah’s podcast titled A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose with guest Eckart Tolle. This episode is number one in a series of 10, and is based on Eckhard Tolle’s book by the same name. 

During the episode they were talking about Chapter 1 of the book, and Oprah made the comment that in order for her to practice being in the present moment, she would go outdoors in nature and pretend she didn’t know anything about nature, about the trees, about the grass, about what she experienced - she left her preconceived notions behind which gave her the opportunity to take in nature as if she were experiencing it for the 1st time.

This puts a unique spin on it - instead of presuming you *know* nature and the sentient beings, pretend you know nothing about them. Leave all your preconceived notions behind and introduce yourself like you are meeting them for the first time. Wow, can that leave you open for new experiences!

In building right relationship, the big thing is you need to be in personal, direct, consistent relationship with nature and the sentient beings. It’s about tending a unique relationship with another, not taking from that relationship for your own benefit or to make you feel good about yourself or your spiritual life.

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So let’s circle back to the bloom of ladybugs. What if that was just a bloom of ladybugs doing their ladybug thing.

What if it had nothing at all to do with humans? Is that something you could deal with? Is it possible to allow the ladybugs, or any other beyond human sentient being to have their own agency?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, leave your comment here.

We’re In This Together,