On a Firefly Night

Originally published August 2007 in the Dickinson County News

When I was young, I remember thinking that fireflies were magic. I had no idea how they worked, but the fact that there were little bugs that could disappear and reappear in a flash was magical in my developing mind. It wasn’t unusual for me to wish on them like I did falling stars and rainbows. Even though I’m grown now, I think there’s still something magic about a firefly night.

It made me sad to see the boys who trapped the fireflies in jars for light or smashed them on the sidewalk to watch them glow to their death. They were killing magic, I thought… and part of me still thinks so. As I grew older and formed a natural curiosity about nature and its wonders, I learned the scientific explaination for the firefly light. Aparantly, the beetle produces light through a phenomenal chemical reaction.

I read this week that the firefly exerts 90 percent of its energy to make this light. According to scientists, this 90 percent energy ratio is unusual and remarkable, especially considering the human invention of the light bulb uses 10 percent of its energy to make light. The rest produces heat.

I also was reminded that the main purpose of making the light is to mate, of course. I couldn’t help but laugh at the comparison of a firefly and a teenage girl – exerting so much energy on the opposite sex.

Once I took mating out of the comparison, I found a much better lesson from the firefly. A lesson of focus, of meaning and of providing “light,” whatever that might mean for you.

What if we were all like fireflies, with 90 percent of our energy going toward some cause?

What could we get done if we focused 90 percent of our energy on something? What kind of “light” could you focus that much energy on? And would you want to?