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The air was as hot as the sun was bright. Working in tandem, the elements dually baked the mountain side and the two humans who were looking for refuge in the shade. Even out of the sun, the temperatures precariously teetered around tolerable if movement was kept to a minimum.

A black pest churned its iridescent wings against the oppressive air and attempted several landings on our moistened, red skin only to be swatted away.

“I see you fly. Thanks for reminding me I’m human,” she said.

Her monologue stopped me mid-thought.

If you’re like me, you have wondered what earthly purpose a fly has. It would have been as easy to shoo that thought away as the insect itself, but I had time on my side and nowhere to be but right there.

While the thought that flies thrive in shit seems repulsive, the idea has depth. Flies break down death, reproduce in carcasses, and thrive in areas not many other creatures care to go. This breakdown is critical for the transmutation of death back into life. Metaphorically, flies are the ultimate shadow workers, turning the darkness of life and transforming it into something useful and potent.

Consider how annoying it is to have a fly constantly buzz around you, landing and too-lightly flicking the hair follicles. Relate this to something else in your life that’s annoying. Do inconsiderate drivers in heavy traffic bother you? What about the co-worker that chews chips open-mouthed and cud-like? Or how about the person that never fails to forget to respond to a text but leaves his or her read notifications on?

Those situations are like the fly. Just irritating enough to not be tolerable, yet miniscule in the grand scheme of life. They have the power to make even the most “woke” person feel human, and yet they offer the same potent potential a fly does.

“I see you, tiny irritation. Thank you for reminding me that I’m a human. What purpose do you have, and what are you here to teach me about myself?

Flies and pet peeves offer the same thing: A reflection back on ourselves, and a deceptive doorway forward on our journey of refinement.

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