There have been no grasshoppers in our yard since First Turkey did them all in 35 years ago. Maybe that's why this title caught my attention. Then its thoughtful consideration of our lives and their meaning caught my soul. < Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving> by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Boston, Skinner House Books, 2002.
It’s a rare book, only 138 pages long, that becomes a treasure. I marked thirty-five of those pages because they contained quotable quotes.
Jeffrey Lockwood begins by taking us deep into the Wyoming prairie to watch grasshoppers doing nothing, just being, most of their time. Perhaps we should be called “human doings,” not “human beings,” he suggests. Then he leads us seamlessly into observations about complexity and “...what science cannot fathom, nature still manages to exploit.” Before we realize it, he has led us full circle to ask, “What is a grasshopper good for?’ and concludes with the timeless answer: “...we value our children...because of who they are,” not what they do.
As we learn the details of Lockwood’s work as an etymologist, defending farmland against hordes of grasshoppers, he illustrates his dilemma of what it means to kill. “Taking life, like giving life, can be a sacred act.” Sometimes an essential act, if we are to live.
We watch as Lockwood teaches his children about his job killing grasshoppers, while capturing and releasing insects he finds in his house. In either case, he feels that his obligation is to “...mitigate their potential pain.”
The author notes our need to control as we confront nature’s “absolute indifference” to our existence, encourages us to “...contribute to moving human society through this phase of self-destruction”, and ends with a treasure chest of quotable quotes about the complementary nature of science (how we came to be) and religion (why we came to be).