Thursday, January 12, 2006

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Indulge me. (Or, if you're Caroline and have heard this already, ignore me.)

What did moths do for ineffective masochism before lightbulbs? Before lightbulbs there was fire, which would certainly light them up but only just before it killed them, and there was the moon. Which much have served much the same purpose as the lightbulbs--in that the light was just impossible to get to--but in a much more distant and hopeless way.
It was the invention of the lightbulb that allowed the moth to batter itself against a light source that it could only get so close to, a light source whose heat it could feel but whose glow it could never actually touch. The lightbulb must have given the moths the chance to hope against hope that this time they would really get through even though there wasn't actually ever a chance that their tiny, ineffectual wings would beat a hole through that glass. There are some places, after all, that even willpower can't reach.
And so by inventing the lightbulb what we really did, rather than lighting our own darkness, was to provide a little creature with a means of slow self-destruction. What we did was manufacture an excuse for not moving on, for not seeking out a light that provided an end. What we did was open the path to a cycle of stagnation.

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