There once was a moth named Manduca,
who drank every night, but no drunka.
The trick? Slow his brain and hover in place.
Nectar filled face, who da thunka?
The limericks lame, but what a great name…
Sorry about the runaway rhyme…I need to stop. But Manduca Hawkmoth! My first inclination was it sounded like the next wizard-in-residence at Hogwarts. I love it. But magic or not, let me bring my imagination back in for a landing and report it is actually an insect of which I rhyme. In point of fact, it is known in scientific circles as ‘Manduca sexta’. In layman’s terms? The nocturnal hawkmoth.
Always the nerd, there was a story on the BBC that captured my attention. The puzzle? How does a moth see its dinner in the dark? I must admit, I don’t think I had ever really considered the problem of not being able to see my food but OK, I can see [sic] how that could be a problem.
Based on the work of scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Washington, blogger Zoe Gough presents a fascinating look into how the moth and its flowering partners have adapted. You can read the story for yourself when we’re done [See Sources, Credits and Attributions], but here’s the nickel tour of what they learned:
Gathering what little light there is at night from different lenses, the Hawkmoth focuses all of it on one single photoreceptor. So far, that’s cool but not a big deal. Anatomically, scientists already knew that.
The new news is discovering that the Hawkmoth is able to slow down the processing speed of its brain by 17%. Slower processing speed gives the Hawkmoth more time to review what little of the visual there is to see. To me it sounded like the moth version of putting my favorite television show into slow-motion, but only by a little bit.
At first, you might think with the brain reduction, other functions would suffer. And they do.
Dr. Simon Sponberg (Georgia Institute of Technology) says:
“This was an interesting example of how an organism can tune its brain to maintain its ability to gather food”.
He goes on to say: “The moths do suffer a trade-off by slowing their brains, but that trade-off doesn’t end up mattering because it only affects their ability to track movements that don’t exist in the natural way that flowers blow in the wind.”
How cool is that?
Not so cool was me at work this week. I don’t know about you, but it drives me nuts when co-workers hit REPLY-ALL to an office e-mail. I’m not even sorry to say this, but I don’t need to see their response. Respond to the sender. Please.
So what happened? You can already guess the dotted lines.
I still had another day before the deadline, but I was tired. It was near the end of the day and I was feeling a little embarrassed when my boss asked me if I had filled out the health insurance questionnaire he had sent around earlier in the week. I hadn’t. So I went back to my desk, banged out the form and what do you think I did? In the words of the late great Phil Hartman, “You are correct, sir”. The entire office got my response. ARRRRRGGGGGHHH!
I quickly moved to recall the e-mail from as many recipients as I could, but I won’t know till Monday how successful I was. If I had only taken the time to think about what I was doing before I did it, I wouldn’t be kicking myself. But as ever, it got better. In a cruel twist of good-hearted fate, a friend of mine in the IT group sent me this:
How many times does it happen? The clock says “X:48” and our To-Do lists aren’t getting any shorter. Faster and faster.
Lately, I’ve felt my attention span getting stretched thinner and thinner, which in turn, is diffusing my focus on any of it. It’s like the feeling you get when you got called on in class and have no clue what the teacher is asking you.
I know I work hard but at the end of the day, I’m exhausted. I go home, change out and eat dinner, catching up with Rick on the affairs of the day. Several times a week, I hear myself say, “I’m so glad to be home”. But not so fast there Buckaroo. No sooner have I plopped down into my favorite chair, the television confronts me with more of the same.
The other night, I was watching Chris Matthews on MSNBC. I’m listening to him talk over one of his panel members who is trying to respond to the question he’s already asked. Chris, I love what you do, but come on. Let the expert speak. While all that’s going on, another series of news stories are merrily crawling along the bottom of the screen. Not to be outdone, the current time (by time zone) and temperatures around the country are rotating through their own prescribed array across the top.
Make it stop.
But this week, in that moment, I instantly understood the spirit of Manduca Hawkmoth. I swear I could hear my newest mythical wizard softly channeling, Paul McCartney, singing “Let it be, let it be”.
With that, I sit up. I don’t even wait for “Whisper words of wisdom”. I get up. I walk to the door and go outside to sit with the plants. Words of wisdom indeed. This is one smart moth. I listen. ‘Slow your brain down. Just let it be.’ So I do. I sit there with both feet flat on the ground and my palms turned up, resting in my lap. I close my eyes, drop my chin and breathe.
In through the nose. Deeply, deeply. Hold it and release. Exhale. Through the mouth…push it all out. Good. Inhale. In again, bring it in through the nose and good. Now, back out. Back out through the nose…
In the span of only three or four minutes, I opened my eyes and looked around.
I was present.
Present in that moment and in that spot. I could smell the basil…the flowers were there too. Healthy. And all any of them was concerned with was being there, in their places, doing their thing, in the very same moment I was. Presence. Magic.
Now I’m suddenly fine. No hot bath. No brandy. No pills. No cigarette and not even a piece of the tasty [sic] gum that is part of nicotine replacement therapy I’m in.
All there is, is what is in front of me, right now. In that moment, it was the simple realization that all I really needed to do was ‘Go moth’, slow down my brain and take the time to process the input swirling all around me. That’s it.
And what’s the worst that might happen? If everything on my To-Do list didn’t get done? So what. If I’ve prioritized correctly, not only will that which remains undone still be there in the morning, but I’ll be in a better position to complete those items as well.
REPLY ALL? I don’t think so. It isn’t my responsibility (or yours) to respond to everyone on everything all the time. Stinging from my own self-inflicted error makes me seriously doubt I’ll make that mistake again…at least not any time soon. But if I’m lucky, I will make new mistakes, thank-you.
I know how much I still don’t know, but if I am just a regular guy and I figured this out in the span of just a few minutes of hanging out with the flowers (and a little help from a moth I’ll never meet), think about how much easier it’s going to be for you.
All I ask is you think about it. If you were a moth, what does being present look like in the middle of your day?
What’s one little thing you can do that you’re not doing now when the tsunami of your life is tossing you about? I’ll bet you there’s something, at least one thing and I’ll wager it may not seem like much to an outside observer…but you’ll know.
Inhale. Hold it. Exhale. And find your Present. Welcome back. You’re going to be fine. So the next time someone asks you how you do it (and you know they will), just tell ‘em Manduca Hawkmoth sent you. They’ll try to look like they know what you mean but that’s OK. It’ll bring a quiet smile to you when they do.
Present. Slam dunka!
WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT THE HAWK MOTH? YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO:
AND HERE’S ANOTHER GEEKY ARTICLE ON ‘10 Ways To Reduce Your Failure Rate of Innovation’. Written by Gijs van Wulfen, Founder, FORTH Innovation. Cool applications for your life, professional and otherwise, but you’re a smart cookie. You can draw your own conclusions. Enjoy.
#WillisClan – “What Can I Say”
The Willis Clan has become my ‘must see’ television of late. Check TLC for local times in your area. First having seen them on America’s Got Talent singing “Favorite Things” from Sound of Music…Just good stuff…
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Hawk Moth – cropped and closing photo of same (credit: Rob Felt / Georgia Tech): http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150610-hawkmoth-slows-brain-to-hover-and-see-in-the-dark; A giant hawk moth_Eumorpha typhon: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/pollinator-of-the-month/hawk_moths.shtml
Cubicle World from the blog post ‘conditional happiness in cubicle world’ by Anonymous – http://tkdjunkiesober.blogspot.com/2007/02/conditional-happiness-in-cubicle-world.html
Whoever the author is, their blog is about their personal recovery from alcoholism. They write they hope that some of their ramblings can be beneficial to others in recovery. If you or someone you know is an alcoholic and otherwise in the fight of their life, you might find solace in some really tremendous writing. GO TO and READ: http://tkdjunkiesober.blogspot.com/
Head Desk by [insert nifty phrase] (Another WordPress Blogger, this one from Holland) – Funny stuff and a little off the beaten path. Check out her work at: https://gatsiesheikar.wordpress.com/about/
If you have not yet discovered Little Pickle Press (http://littlepicklepress.com/), do yourself a favor and check them out. Their mission involves helping parents and educators develop responsible and conscious little spirits. The book cover featured here is: What does it mean to be present by Rana DiOrio and Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler: http://carrotsareorange.com/earth-day-childrens-books-giveaway/
Gijs van Wulfen http://res.cloudinary.com/talent/image/fetch/t_face_s170/http://speakerdata.s3.amazonaws.com/photo/image/793719/gijs-van-wulfen.jpg; Willis Clan: http://www.varietyattractions.com/willis-clan; Closing Photo: Hawk Moth Inverted – Original by Charles Hedgcock: Cover image: Foraging hawkmoth. In southern Arizona, hawkmoths (Manduca sexta) have an innate odor preference to obtain nectar from jimsonweed (Datura wrightii) flowers. When jimsonweed is absent, hawkmoths learn to feed from agave flowers (Agave palmeri). See the article by Riffell et al. on pages 3404–3409. Image courtesy of Charles Hedgcock, RBP, FBCA (ARL Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona).: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States: http://www.pnas.org/content/105/9.cover-expansion
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