Praying mantis sitting on my hand

Encounter with a Mantis

After my second day on the Koh Tao freediving course, I had lunch with some fellow students. I was craving pizza, and as luck would have it, that was on the menu.

As we ate, some cheeky birds came and watched, daring to come close and steal a crumb.

We were all talking about what we did for work, and one of the students, calling herself “Little Wu” explained that, as well as being an artist, she’s a kind of therapist, helping people understand their life’s narrative through the medium of “Creating your own Fairytale”.

We talked a little about this, and it seemed her thinking is very much of the “Power of positive thinking” school: “if you dream it you can do it”, or “if you really want something to happen, it will”.

I applaud this sort of self-empowering sentiment to some degree. I can certainly think back to some periods in my life when knowing exactly what I wanted helped me achieve a goal. It has definitely helped when I have had an idea of where I want to take my career, for example.

However, I also think it can be destructive. Wishing for the best is great and all, but what happens if you really believe this motivational stuff and it doesn’t work out for you? You could assume you didn’t wish hard enough for it to happen.

Externalising control of your life to “wishes” like this can have associated symptoms. You might know that it was everything you ever wanted, that you wished until your hearrt was close to bursting. You might even have prayed for it to come true, or rubbed a lucky rabbit’s foot. Why, then, did you not get what you asked? Are you a bad person? Doing something wrong? Unworthy?

This train of thought is a recipe for misery or maybe depression.

A mantis on my hand - Koh Tao, Thailand

Of course, in the spirit of getting along with everyone, I bit my lip. At this point, a baby mantis sauntered onto the table. I figured he was friendly at first, but then it became clear his gestures weren’t attempts to hug us, but boxing gestures. We all took turns playing with him as we ate.

I set the mantis down on the ground and thought, “I hope the birds doesn’t eat him”. Within seconds, he had been gobbled up by a bird swooping in.

Maybe I didn’t wish hard enough.

 

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