On a long hot California summer, my childhood friend Alvin and I set out to record all the living bugs in the world. Ambitious, I know. We grabbed the illustrated animal encyclopedia my mom had bought me for my birthday, our notebooks, pencils, and magnifying glasses, and spent day after day turning over every leaf and rock on our street in search of the objects of our scientific endeavor. We were careful not to hurt any of the little crawlers as we counted their legs, antlers, antennas, and wings while recording everything we saw with the level of diligence that can only be achieved by children on a very important mission.
By the end of the summer, we were confident we had recorded every bug on the street. But despite all our efforts and hard work, our reference encyclopedia contained pictures of bugs that were nowhere to be seen in our area. We searched and searched, but still there were missing specimens. We spent many nights on our walkie-talkies trying to unravel the mystery of where all these missing bugs had gone. Perhaps Mr. Green had killed them all with his bug spray or the mean Cohen kid from down the street had squished them in a psychotic bug-hating frenzy. We postulated every possible hypothesis with impeccable logic, but it would take months, and some growing up, before we could see the obvious explanation right before our eyes: what was true of our one little street was not true of the world as a whole. As Alvin elegantly put it, “just because they get to play with titan beetles in Brazil, doesn’t mean we get to play with titan beetles in California.”
When Alvin finally came to that ingenious realization our lives changed forever. Before that, we were two geeky kids with magnifying glasses. After that, we were two geeky kids with magnifying glasses, awareness, and perspective. Our goal of recording every bug on the planet now meant actually getting out there and seeing the world! We had discovered that sometimes to find what you are looking for all you have to do is zoom out and broaden your search area; and that was one of the most valuable lessons Alvin and I ever learned together on our summer adventures.
I am once again reading comment after comment from frustrated newbies who can’t seem to find these high-end clients some of us seniors keep insisting on. They are out there. Mr. Green did not spray them with his bug spray and the Cohen kid did not squish them to death. In fact, they are all over the place, but if you limit your search area to the narrow confines of translation portals and bidding wars, you will not find them. You’re not going to find Brazilian titan beetles if all you’re doing is turning over leaves on the same tired little street of California. So if you’re one of those frustrated newbies, my advice to you is not to give up. Your titan beetles are out there. You just need to figure out where to look. On that subject, here’s a post I wrote a while back on how I found mine.