The Real Reason Flies are Hard to Swat
Just read this scientific article on why flies are hard to swat:
That's all nice and good, but they're on the wrong track. As scientists, they're analyzing the mechanics of flies and fly swatters to a microscopic degree, completely missing the basic truth about flies. The truth which, if they only realized it, would enable them to swat flies nearly every time, over and over again, with little difficulty. I know because after I figured this out I was immediately able to swat flies in my back yard without missing, at least 9 out of 10 times. And I can still do it today.
My Fly Swatting Story
About 2 summers ago we had a dog which would poop all over the back yard. Our 12 year old son had the responsibility for cleaning it up, but if mom and dad didn't keep on him about it, sometimes an entire week's worth would be out there - a field of landmines for anyone walking around the yard. What's worse, our big outdoor trash can needed to be washed out pretty badly; let's just say, that summer we had lots and lots of flies in the back yard, and it was my "duty" to swat them before visitors came over to our house.
I'd get out there with my trusty bent-up wire fly swatter, running back and forth across the porch in the heat, trying to catch those little suckers when they landed on anything. I was missing a lot, hitting maybe 1 fly for every 15 swings, and getting really frustrated. They'd taunt me, landing on my forehead or my swatter arm sometimes just to piss me off.
Then I did something funny; I went to swat a fly, I began the motion, but something happened and I didn't move my arm (I think my elbow locked or something, it happens sometimes). The swatter didn't go anywhere near the fly this time, yet - the fly immediately flew away!
I had to think about that for a while. What just happened? No part of me or the swatter went within 3 feet of the fly, yet he took off as if the swatter just landed next to him!
A few days later I figured it out. Flies can feel emotions that creatures around them emit, just like any other animal! Flies are just really small animals. They're tiny, so their reaction times and movement are quicker, but they still have all the basic traits of animals. Larger animals like dogs and cats can sense when you are happy, sad, angry - from many feet away - and react based on that. Flies are no different. And, if your life depended on fleeing from a huge creature that's about to kill you, wouldn't you use your senses to know when to fly away too?
During the next few days' worth of fly-swatting, I watched myself: sure enough, I could feel myself emit a pulse of emotion right at the moment of swinging the swatter at a fly. Now, it wouldn't happen if I "pretended to swing", or "tried to hit NEXT to the fly"... I couldn't psyche myself out. I had to really be trying to hit a fly, and I would feel this quick pulse of emotion coming from me right as I committed to the swing!
What if I could suppress that emotional pulse?
I practiced and practiced. Man, it was hard to control that pulse. I tried thinking of something else while swatting. I tried doing math in my head while swatting. I tried staring at the paint that needed touching up on the wall while swatting. The problem was, I wasn't looking at the fly, so I couldn't really see what I was doing. Was I was missing, was the fly still flying away before the swatter got there? Etc.
I realized I just had to make my arm be an automaton - a robot arm. My arm must move when I command it, and all other parts of me must stay calm, cool, collected. No thought. No feeling. Just 1 movement of 1 arm, and nothing else.
I practiced and practiced. Finally I was able to do it once only. With more practice I could do it about 1 out of 10 times - but every time I could feel myself doing it right, I would hit a fly!
It was tiring. It took a few days of trying, getting mad, jumping up and down on my fly swatter, and trying again the next day. Thankfully we had no end of flies at that time - I could easily swat 40 a day and still have another 40 flying around the next day. I practiced and practiced, and finally got good at it.
Now, I can do it almost every time, as long as I'm focused on "nothing" while swatting. The fly won't move, because it won't sense the danger.
Learn About You
This is one of those "I learned something about myself" experiences. I learned that a lot of things we do every day have a complex combination of elements to them that we don't see. Elements of our physical, emotional and mental selves, all mixed together. Some of the parts are lightning-fast; most of the time we don't even sense them.
Can you think certain thoughts without feeling the related emotion, without changing the features on your face? That's called a poker-face, in some circles. Can you feel an emotion without moving a muscle? Can you make a movement without requiring a burst of emotion or thought? These are good things to practice.
I learned that it's possible to move without letting my emotion give away my movement. I learned to swing my arm at a focused location without sending out a "ping" of emotion right beforehand. I had no idea it was even possible.
It's like juggling: it sounds easy until you try it; after trying it, you're convinced it's impossible; after lots of practice you can do it almost without thinking about it. Teaching myself to juggle helped me learn how to drop things on the floor without the related emotional self-abuse that was part of my family heritage growing up (but I'll save that story for another blog post).
Our Back Yard Today
We have a different dog now, and the kids are older, so their chores get done more reliably now, and I cleaned out that trash can. We don't have the fly problem anymore - I haven't seen more than 2 or 3 flies in the back yard all summer.
But hand me that swatter and back up a bit - I still can take 'em down if I need to!