It’s late at night, you’re a gentleman dung beetle, and you’ve packed together a delicious ball of shit. Now, for safe-keeping, you’d like to roll it far, far away from the other feasting critters at the dung pile. If you can do that, you just might be able to convince a lady dung beetle to fuck you and lay eggs in your shitball.
To get as far away as fast as possible, it would be ideal to roll it in a straight line. But it’s dark and there’s all kinds of bumps and obstacles. So how do you maintain course?
Earlier this year, biologist Marie Decke and her colleagues discovered the South African dung beetle’s answer: celestial navigation. In experiments, dung beetles who could see the night sky, and in particular the Milky Way, were able to keep going in a straight line, but those wearing a hat that blocked a view of the stars got lost and pushed their delicious dung balls all over the place.
Once, when I was new to Paris, I met a really sweet thing at a poetry reading, and maybe you can kinda see where this is going? The two of us were randy as hell, walking hand in hand through the empty, gorgeous Paris night. We came upon the seven-way hub that is Place des Victoires and walked around the edge of it, pausing every so often for les bisous. I of course meant to lead us in a straight line toward my pad, but, as we later discovered to our mutual embarrassment, we eventually exited the plaza and kept going in the exact same direction we had come from.
A dung beetle has just a speck of brains. My brain is about a 1.5 kilo glob composed of a hundred-billion-odd neurons, interconnecting, firing electrical signals, consuming 20 percent of my daily calories, but my brain is also so useless, so easily distracted by a beautiful girl and a beautiful city that I can’t even walk in a straight line.
“[Dung beetles] are tenacious in what they are trying to do. They cannot be distracted, they don’t get frightened,” one of the paper’s co-authors told the New Yorker. “They’re the cutest animals you can imagine,” opined another, to twist the knife.
Fuck. What is it with our brains? When I moved into my latest temporary lodging, I stubbed my toe. The bathroom’s floor is unconscionably, idiotically, painfully set at three centimeters or so above the hallway’s floor, forming a ledge that takes a good hard whack at your passing toes once a week or so, particularly when you’re in a hurry to pee. Over the first couple of months, I stubbed my toe maybe five times before I fully caught on. Now I lift my foot high at the threshold every single time. But that bathroom still has a pall hanging over it — of evil, of pain, of that hatred for the inanimate that is always, ultimately, self-hatred. The room triggers a reflexive sense memory of simultaneous peeing, cursing and sobbing.
I have travelled to across borders to have sex with a special someone, I have cooked dinners, I have turned on every single bit of charm I can muster. But I have also fallen asleep during the act itself. What kind of a fucking joke is this, to be human? Or is it just me?