Are You A Human Dung Beetle?

Dung Beetles. Superfamily Scarabaeoidea. You might be surprised to learn that there's a dung beetle in your family tree, maybe even at the dinner table, MAYBE in the mirror (are YOU a dung beetle?)

The dung beetle is a beetle whose larvae feed on dung, according to The New Oxford American Dictionary. The larger kinds of beetle place the dung in a hole before the eggs are laid, and some beetles roll the dung along in a ball as they gather it. That's what we have in the Texas Hill Country - the dung-ball-rolling variety.

My first introduction to the dung beetle was fourteen years ago walking with my kids in our neighborhood. I was new to Texas and had been horrified to learn that not only were there scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes here, but that they lived in VERY close proximity, and in the case of scorpions, could be found inside my home!

Naturally, when I saw a large, dark "critter" making its slow progress across the road, I approached with caution. "What new devilry has this god-forsaken terrain cooked up now?" I wondered.

Imagine my surprise when the evil creature turned out to be a small, black beetle rolling an enormous dung ball across the road. I burst out laughing and pointed the roadside attraction out to my son.

I've since seen many such beetles and had a chuckle at their expense, but never thought much about it until about a week ago.

Last week I had occasion to encounter an entirely separate sort of beetle in Texas...

A while back I posted on the need to move beyond the past; I wrote, "What you don't get over, you live under." I thought about that as I was dealing with a relative who was having a hard time letting go of some painful memories when WHAM!! It hit me! She was a human dung beetle!

The more I thought about it, the more it fit. Like the dung beetle, she gathered up all the dung she could find, rolled it up into a great ball, and rolled it along with her wherever she went! Every miserable thing she could think of she wadded up and lovingly patted into place on the huge ball of dung she'd collected over her lifetime. At a moment's notice she could spin her magic ball of dung, find the exact spot she was looking for, and recall with perfect clarity what wrong had been done, by whom, and on what date!

What a waste of energy.

As I thought more about it, I realized a further resemblance to the wee beetles: in her sour attitude and her refusal to move beyond the past, she fed her family, her friends and colleagues a steady diet of dung, as well.

"Hmmm," I thought, "Time to step away from the buffet table!" And then I wondered how many other human dung beetles I knew. Turns out I know a few!

As it happens, there are other parallels between the Hill Country "rollers" and human dung beetles. For instance, if you watch dung beetles, you'll see that on occasion, what looks like a "helper" will show up. This beetle "bad man" appears out of nowhere, comes at a run and looks like he's trying to help his friend push the ball of dung along the road. Further observation, however, will show that the helper is a thief! "Might Is Right" might be the dung beetle motto: An animated dung beetle battle ensues and the victor scurries off with the coveted "ball o' dung."

Think about it: We all know people who thrive on other people's dung. Call it gossip, call it what you will, there's a certain breed of human dung beetle who loves to know what's wrong in your world. Maybe it makes them feel "better than," I don't know; but I do know that it feeds their internal dung beetle larvae.

Occasionally, occasionally, people call or write or blog or text with upbeat "here's what's wonderful today" kind of news; but by and large, they're rolling someone else's dung (or maybe their own) past your doorstep on their way to who-knows-where.

How do you overcome human dung-beetle-ness? I suspect that it starts by acknowledging that you bear a marked resemblance to the busy, dung-toting scarab. Simple awareness will start the process of healing.

And there's always humor; like the old proverb says: Laughter is the best medicine.

If you're wondering how a bug pushing a ball of dung down the road can be amusing, check out this video. I can pretty well guarantee that it will bring a smile to your face! Remember that the next time you find yourself pushing your own ball of dung uphill!

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