JULY 9, 2018

Reading Behavior 6

In her experience, conversations of this nature always ended with the same line: The Lord moves in mysterious ways.” – Kingsolver, Flight Behavior


This is a point in the book where Kingsolver is depicting Dellarobia becoming aware of the magnitude and the cause of why the butterflies are perched along the side of the mountain in Tennessee. Without education or background, the presence of the seeming beauty of the butterflies had initially taken on the superficial suggestion that this was a sort of miracle on earth or a kind of accidental gift of fate that was steered in Dellarobia’s direction.

She hints at being a bit upset that all things that come her way cannot be as simple as beauty but instead have be ‘terrible beauty.’ In the case of the butterflies, of course, there are virtually no positive reasons given by scientists as to why they would suddenly, after thousands of years, jump north from Mexico and land here other than circumstances that are negative.

The scene that shows Dellarobia assisting with the monitoring of the fallen butterflies is what we might call a projected parallel scene, where we are shown the same events presently that likely occurred on the Mexican mountain: that is to say encroachment, heavy weather, a look of suitable temperatures for survival, flooding and rain; if these were the same events that took place on those remaining habitats in Mexico than it is obvious to us as readers what is happening to the species in general.

Dellarobia is shown ultimately to be a kind of symbolic character that is made up of many surfaces, much like the popular casts of clay and ceramics made by the Dela Robias of Renaissance fame. That family for three generations had created a sort of mass production process for figures and art that had in the beginning been criticized for its popularization of a mass produced item, but later complimented by Ruskin himself, as artful and brilliant.

The surfaces change; materialism and luxury is subtly insinuated but that also the pointing to another direction of austerity and one could say sustainability today. We notice that to some degree – whether fully intended or not – that virtually all of the people in Flight Behavior are, frankly, a bit shallow and occupied with their cultural existence.

Dellarobia is in a way presented as potentially exhibiting depth of character and desires and we are presented much inner testimony of her voice through a kind of stream of consciousness third person limited point of view, but she is not a fully vivacious character who is yet capable of taking on her own action and becoming a fulfilling protagonist. She is limited my place, culture, family, lack of education, and, sadly, a perpetual need for a smoke. These are all hindrances.

Many of us have made the point in the past, that in order to truly concern ourselves over the welfare of the earth – that is to say to place it above as a priority – we almost need to rid ourselves of culture to the degree that we care. It makes sense that materialism is of course a hindrance in these matters because as we enter into the sequence of gaining we exit the sequence of preserving.

It is a difficult bit of obvious math to consider that for every piece of plastic, for example, that is consumed, that matter has to come from the earth somewhere done the line and it will return in a form that is non degradable, for the most part (yes, some waxworks and some bacteria have been found to consume plastics.) Yet it must be understood (Kingsolver is showing us this as well), that until materialism is adjusted there is no such thing as reversal of climate change. As long as materialism and all of its surface prescriptions are followed, care for the earth, at the level necessary, is actually impossible, nearly by definition.

Unfortunately, might it take a species apocalypse to turn the cultural mind back onto regenerative prospects? The Renaissance was a movement from the dark to the light in many ways; seemingly only destruction and a sinking of the moral conscious eventually was achieved to such a degree that only choices of light remained. Our chief problem with following these same prospects of renewal though is that the earth, this time, is in balance. The Renaissance was about saving the human soul. Today, we still have the soul to save, no doubt, for materialism is not only a bane to the prospects of the earth itself, but so much easier to follow than ever before that it might very well be becoming a part of our very brain texture, nearly incapable of jostling out.

The arguments being set out at this point in the novel are heavy in intention, and a touch low in execution, however. Kingsolver, by admirably creating nature as a coming protagonist, has indeed left the humans in her book as nothing particularly interesting at all. This is not a personal criticism – I happen to believe in this motion of priority – but it will be exceedingly difficult for the modern attention span to put these pieces together. A cli-fi book? A book that is a calling to ideals of the Renaissance? The utter importance of the indicator species of the butterfly? For the mind wrapped in materialist tendencies, it must be understood, these are some of the very last points that would be interpreted.