The Pleasure of Fireflies

For me, growing up on the East Coast meant the pleasure of seeing fireflies in the summer. But my daughter, who was born in California, had never seen one. In our travels we discovered there were fireflies in the tropical nights of Bali. After she went to bed one night, I tucked in her mosquito net, then went out and caught a few. Her eyes were closed. I put them in her net and whispered for her to wake up. They flew around inside her net until we let them out, and she was totally captivated by their luminous trails in the night. How improbable and fantastic, how unlikely to have beautiful insects with soft blinking lights—yet this is no more unlikely than our loving hearts. Our hearts shine in the same way as the fireflies, with the same light as the sun and the moon.

Within us is a secret longing to remember this light, to step out of time, to feel our true place in this dancing world. It’s where we began and where we return.

Whether we wait until the last or see it this very day, the call to mystery presents itself again and again to our eyes and our hearts—as Mary Oliver has written in “The Summer Day”:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?.

For more from Jack, go to

Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, and he is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California and a best-selling author. Jack was one of the leaders at the first-ever White House Buddhist Leadership Conference in 2015.

This essay was featured in the June 23rd edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper is the paper of record for individuals who want to be Architects of Change, lead meaningful lives and Move Humanity Forward.  To get inspiring and informative content like this essay delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.





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