As we enter another brutal flea season here in sunny, humid Sydney, I’d like to share a piece of parasite-inspired enlightenment.

If you are – like me – allergic to and revolted by those bloodsucking little bastards, I hope you find this post of some help.

What was God thinking when He created the flea? Is this a spiritual and scientific challenge? Or a case for atheism?
What was God thinking when He created the flea? Is this a spiritual and scientific challenge? Or a case for atheism?

A few summers ago, before the family departed on holiday, anticipating unwelcome housemates of the blood-sucking kind, I set off flea-bombs. When we returned, we were greeted by an army of hungry, pesticide-resistant fleas. A combination of daily vacuuming, constant laundry, diligent cat flea treatments and more bombings failed to bring the plague under control.

Violence had led to resistance. This frustrating failure of military might culminated in an epiphany. I needed a more subtle strategy to defeat the enemy. Fleas, I noticed during this plague, are drawn to light and bright surfaces like white socks and paper. In that moment, I understood I needed to exploit their weakness.

My plan involved a lure comprising cheap solar path lights, shallow white soup bowls filled with water and a  squeeze of detergent (no bubbles – the little sods can use them as life-rafts). Each night I perched a light over the strategically placed bowls so the water glowed with an ethereal blue light. Come morning at the height of the flea season, I would find, in each bowl, up to thirty fleas suspended in their watery graves.

No manufacturer of pesticides will ever offer such handy hints, so let me repeat these ingredients:

  1. Shallow soup bowls filled with water and a squirt of detergent
  2. Bright night lights (solar powered lights are perfect)

I have come to regard this victory as one of great philosophical significance. It demonstrates that enticement is a far more potent method of conquest than military force. For aren’t we human beings just like those fleas? Driven by desire? Seduced by illusions and buoyed by hope for some kind of material, physical or spiritual fulfilment?

History shows that conquest through gradual seduction and assimilation is far more potent and lasting than military might. Today, after many wars between neighbours and distant lands we have sushi, futons, bratwurst, kebabs, lasagna and baguettes. Andalusian architecture combines the very best of Islamic and Christian concepts of symmetry and harmony.  And that’s just the food and architecture.  These are all cultural conquests that, hundreds of years ago would have been inconceivable. This is evolution. Of not only genes, but memes.

Isn’t peaceful assimilation wonderful?

Clearly we’re not going to assimilate, Borg-like, with fleas any time soon. Although let it be noted, that insects don’t catch viruses. No flea ever had to take a sick day because of a cold.

Parasite-inspired enlightenment requires great leaps of faith and another ideological flea-jump leads this blogger to contemplate the end of life as we know it. What happens in that moment when we learn that, just like those fleas drowning in their watery graves, it was all just a trick?

Sufis believe that at the moment of death the true purpose of our existence will be revealed. Some theoretical physicists suggest our reality is in fact a five-dimensional hologram emanating from the event horizon surrounding a black hole. Who knows? No one has come back with video footage or written a non-fiction account of their experiences.

In the absence of concrete answers to these existential questions, I’ll live with the illusion that it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important. So hop to your graves in happiness, you doomed little fleas.

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