Watson, Lyall - Desert Locusts
Type of Spiritual Experience
This example is about a locust, an unloved little insect that nevertheless has a fascinating history.
A huge number of questions arise as a result of this description. This time, let me start by imagining a locust to be a robotic locust again which requires animation and I will go through the questions and answers at the same time.
- How does it know when to transform? Other systems interact with the transformation software of the locusts. These systems may be the weather systems, the systems concerning food availability and as it says in the description ‘overcrowding’ triggers. So there is software to transform it once these triggers are activated
- How does it know the route? Probably preprogrammed into it. In computer terminology part of its operating system. Software that is part of its implementation software on birth. If not, it may be downloaded or made available on its transformation to a locust from a grasshopper
- How do they know to head for high ground? Part of their operating system, probably preprogrammed [hard coded] from birth. Software that is part of the ‘locust’ package
- How can they smell rain? Smelling software geared towards detecting the signals given off by rain software. Also probably part of the locust software package
- How do they follow the compass direction ? navigation software – probably the same software that we saw the butterflies use. A common package
- How does it decide which flying strategy to use? It is possible that a locust has planning and reasoning software, or at least pattern matching software to enable it to decide on strategies and ‘make a decision’. The inputs will come from various non locust software activities – wind direction, destination etc
- How does it feed? – Feeding software
- How does it fly? – Flying software
And so on.
A description of the experience
Lyall Watson – Heaven’s Breath
Desert locusts are nothing more than ordinary short horned grasshoppers with a Dracula complex. Under certain conditions of overcrowding, they react to each other by growing vivid red cloak like wings and take off in coherent swarms, thousands of millions strong, intent on devouring ‘every herb of the land’. The transformation of ordinary green grasshoppers into fearsome red and brown hordes is so complete that even their name changes, from Schistocerca solitaria to Schistocerca gregaria.
The swarms travel at about 15 kilometres an hour, following a roughly circular route in a clockwise direction around the Sahara, with some groups making side trips to breeding grounds on the Persian Gulf and the great lakes of East Africa. What they need is recent rain, enough to wet the ground sufficiently to keep the eggs from drying out and to supply new green vegetation for their offspring. They find the rains along the doldrums or intertropical convergence zone, which drifts north and south with the seasons, but there is no way they can do so by merely following local winds. Low pressure zones bubble up along the wind equator, creating a confusion of short lived squalls and calms which would soon lead passive drifters astray.
Close observation of locust swarms shows that they have short term tendencies to head for high ground, which is more likely to attract rain, and that they will fly headlong into the wind to get to areas where they can see or smell rain already falling. In the absence of either of these direct cues, however, they maintain station on their broad migration circuit by following preferred compass directions of travel, regardless of the wind. Which brings the swarms to, and keeps them in, areas where the doldrum rains are most likely to fall, even if this does not happen until several weeks after their arrival, or on occasion fail to take place at all.
The moving swarm is so clearly in active control of its destiny, that it even adopts two distinct strategies according to wind direction.
If the wind blows in the preferred direction, the swarm takes advantage of it, rising like a thundercloud to heights of 3000 metres and bowling along as a cohesive mass. Individual insects in this column gain ground in the wind at height, and then drop off the leading edge of the swarm to feed while the rest of the mob rolls by.
When forced to fly against the wind, the tactics are entirely different. The swarm becomes diffuse and hugs the ground, keeping as far out of the turbulence as possible. There is clearly nothing accidental about such procedures. The behaviour in each case is highly adaptive and designed to give the species the best chance of breeding in the most favourable habitat............