When walking through the library the other day, this book caught my eyes on the ‘Librarian’s picks’ shelf as I walked past. At first, I thought it was some form of novel; as the cover seemed to resemble that of a thriller. I was awfully surprised to find that it was actually an incredibly well thought out investigation into the role of the fly throughout our cultural history; and it really opened my eyes up to our own perceptions of these minute beasts.
One of the first points to interest me a great deal was that of the fly as a constant companion of the human; In the way that as civilisation has grown and the waste of humanity has been brought together, the flies live and breed within this muck, and in return have a sort of adverse psychological affect on the people it relies on; causing uneasiness and disease, which is the requirement for a society to grow and thrive. The fly creates such an uneasy feeling within us because of its ability to infiltrate our homes, the book remarks; ‘Flies and Priests can enter any house.’ and they become a form of anti-angel, spreading disease and malaise rather than the often delivered ‘good news’ by the usual angels.
Of course, the religious connotations of the fly do not end here; as is commonly known, one of the greater demons under Lucifer’s command is Beelzebub, ‘the lord of the flies’, who is often depicted appearing in the guise of a gigantic fly. The interesting thing is that scholars believe the buzzing of the fly is where the name came from, with -zebub being a bastardisation of the hebrew word -zabab (to murmur, hum or buzz), is actually a reference to the priestly practice of creeping underneath a statue to murmur or mutter indistinct responses. If this is to be believed, then the name Beelzebub might actually mean ‘My Lord who Murmurs’, which is a far more interesting and sinister connotation for the demon, but removes a lot of hellish connotations the humble fly may suffer.
There is also a lot of mentioning of the fly’s carefree and relaxed attitude to death, something that in relation to it’s incredibly short life, is a redeeming aspect of it’s character. A fly is often simple minded in it’s action, and it’s philosophy of life is equally as muted; eat, sleep, copulate, die. That is all there is to the life of the fly, and it has no need for anything else. Likewise, it is so driven in it’s quest for sweetness and sex, that it seems to mimic the pleasure chasing humanity that is apparently so much more superior than it. Interestingly, the fly has one of the most uncanny of all relationships with us, as humans, in which when we look at a fly; it does not look back. According to Heidegger; ‘Only human beings, he suggests, have the capacity to open, illuminate or allow the beings of things in their being’. The fly, however, withholds such a thing, and we often enforce a sense of intimacy with the fly, that is not received back. We are simply ‘not in the picture’ for them, and this makes us feel so unbelievably uneasy, for to such an apparently insignificant creature, we are nothing. In this, we are flies.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, it is brilliant.