What the Beetle Said
The sun is at the horizon. It's time for us to finish.
If nothing else, I hope you'll carry this idea away with you:
Attend to your needs, but don't confuse attending to your
needs with saving the world.
There was a time when I thought I could say to people: “Forget
yourselves for a while, because the world is in dire need of your
attention. For a while stop looking for ways to enhance your inner
life and start looking instead for ways to ensure that—twenty years
from now, fifty years from now—our children and grandchildren
will have a decent world to grow up in.” I'll still say it, but now I
say it knowing that this is too much to ask of most people.
It doesn't matter, I'll ask it of a few.
I hope the things I've given you here will enrich you as a person,
but I hope you see that I haven't given them to you solely for your
Following the deer into the forest was an immensely enriching
experience for me, but I wasn't called to it so that I could be
enriched. The beetle didn't say, “What you need is there.” What
the beetle said was: “You’re needed there.”
You, too, are needed there. I mean you who broke into my house
in the middle of the night to talk to me. But I also mean you who
hear these words. I mean you who will someday read these words.
On this I don't hesitate to ask you to believe.
Believe me, you're needed there.
The secret they wanted to impart to me was not a secret until we
made it one. It was known to the first of our kind to tread the face
of the earth. It was known to every generation thereafter and never
doubted, until we began to doubt it, some ten thousand years ago.
We're not strangers in a strange land here. This is the secret
I learned. We're not aliens, not outsiders. We were born in the
sea, three billion years ago. The deer and the beetle are our kin.
We're not invaders from space. No one gave us this planet to take
care of or to use as we please. We grew out of the community of
life the same way shellfish did, the same way mosquitos did.
The world doesn't belong to us, we belong to it. Always have,
We belong to the world. We belong to the community of life
on this planet—it doesn't belong to us. We got confused about
that, now it's time to set the record straight.
We belong to the world, and this is why we're needed. No species
can set itself apart from all the rest or make itself the ruler of
all the rest. That won't work. All must belong.
That's what we've got to work on. We've got to find our way
back into the community. We've got to stop living like outlaws.
When we begin to do that—when we begin to acknowledge
that the world needs us and that we belong to it, not it to us
— I think our feelings of desperate loneliness and neediness
will begin to evaporate, all by themselves.
I think maybe needy people are just people who don't feel
Well, I say to you: Feel needed. Feel needed, because you are.