It’s Mayfly season, and we’re being chased out of our house. Never having lived this close to a body of water, I have to confess, I’ve never seen anything like it. Swarms and swarms of long-winged beasties around every light source. Somehow they are getting past our screen windows and driving our short, little dog nuts.
Last night, I was burdened by the need to get some photographic evidence of the biblical proportions of this infestation. My son and I were emerging from the pizzeria with three hot pies when we first noticed the flies, so we drove home as quickly as possible to get the camera. Once there, I was distracted by a curiously red frog/toad sitting in the middle of the road enjoying the good fortune of the Mayfly social.
He had my attention for about fifteen minutes as I tried to get him to perform for the camera, but then I realized that he and every other amphibian and reptile were depleting the numbers of the swarm. Since this would reduce the impact of my photo op, we jumped back into the car and made for the local gas station. It’s one of those mega-models with dozens of drive-in bays and it’s own nuclear power plant to help run the lighting. We knew it would be Mayfly Mecca.
But something very Twilight-Zonish happened between the time that we left the house and the time that we reached the gas station. Every single fly vanished. Sure, there was evidence – millions and millions of wings littered the roadside – but there were no flies! The high-powered lights were unobscured, the motorcyclists unharrassed. Scratching our heads, we headed back home to do some research. These wings were all that I found when I arrived.
What I learned is that some Mayflies only get to be adults for a short time. Entire populations all mature at the same time. Some live a few days; others only one half-hour. Having no mouths with which to take in nutrients, they literally starve to death. But there’s no time to eat, anyway. Mayflies have only one purpose as adults – they were made to love!
Yep. Adult Mayflies (a.k.a., “shag shad flies”) have just one thing on their mind, and thirty minutes is more than enough time to get it done. They are adept at mid-air mating (see etymology for “catching it on the fly”), and the males swarm to impress the females and convince them to join the swarm. Once they do, a love connection occurs, and the new couple fly off for some privacy. Once the eggs are fertilized, the female deposits them back in the water through various techniques known as “floating,” “splashing,” “dipping,” “landing” or “bombing” depending upon her mood. Mission accomplished, the Mayflies make like Hamlet, and they are gone as quickly as they emerged.
Philosophers from Aristotle onward have used the Mayfly as a metaphor for the ephemeral (“lasting but a day”) nature of life. I like it. Life is short. At least this side of eternity. And we spend so much time majoring in the minors of what it means to be alive, when really our purpose here on earth is not much different than the Mayfly’s. Get your mind out of the gutter – I mean, we were made to love. Love our God and love our neighbor as ourselves (though we should use different tactics than the ones described above).
Nothing else we do during this lifetime will last but the love we share. Not our accomplishments, not our money, not our names, not our buildings, not our writings….it will all pass away. But what will last are the relationships and the kindness that we show to one another. The love we share impacts lives here on earth and earns us rewards in heaven. It’s imperishable. Paul says it best:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:1-10)
We were made to love.