Love Among the Mantises

I occasionally like to quote the words of my namesake: Unspiek, Baron Bodissey, whose writings may be found in the fiction of Jack Vance. The Baron is not a character in those books, but rather a literary reference. Excerpts from his works appear in footnotes and chapter headings, and he is occasionally quoted by characters in the books.

The following quote is from the heading of Chapter 3 in The Book of Dreams, the final novel of the Demon Princes pentalogy:

From Life, Volume I, by Unspiek, Baron Bodissey:

…I often reflect upon the word “morality,” the most troublesome and confusing word of all.

There is no single or supreme morality; there are many, each defining the mode by which a system of entities optimally interacts.

The eminent entomologist Fabre, observing a mantis in the act of devouring its mate, exclaimed: “What an abominable custom!”

The ordinary man, during a day’s time, may be obliged to act by the terms of a half-dozen different moralities. Some of these acts, appropriate at one moment, may the next moment be considered obscene or opprobrious in terms of another morality.

The person who, let us say, expects generosity from a bank, efficient flexibility from a government agency, open-mindedness from a religious institution will be disappointed. In each purview the notions represent immorality. The poor fool might as quickly discover love among the mantises.

6 thoughts on “Love Among the Mantises

  1. That is interesting.
    As you may have gathered from my previous posts, I am not exactly a person that you can walk all over.
    In fact, I have been practicing kung-fu for many years.
    And one style of kung-fu is actually Preying Mantis.
    That is not the style that I practice most.
    But I do know a bit of Preying Mantis.
    PM is sieze your enemy, Arm locks, break his arm, hit pressure points, cause extreme pain.
    Then break his neck and kill him.
    The best thing to do to your enemy is kill him.

  2. I like Jack Vance quite a lot, just memory is fading since it’s been decades that I was at his novels. I probably didn’t catch all of them and don’t remember this particular book.

    On the last paragraph of the quoted section: I would include those who believe that a universal morality exists at all and expect others, i.e. everybody, to follow it lest severe consequences would befall them. This doesn’t mean every creed that emerged among men should have an equal right to persist among the living. They are subject to evolution like the dodo and every other living thing.

  3. ___________________________________________________________

    ‘Mantises are an order (Mantodea) of insects that contains over 2,400 species in about 460 genera in 33 families. The largest family is the Mantidae (“mantids”). Mantises are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks. Their elongated bodies may or may not have wings, but all Mantodea have forelegs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey; their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis.

    The closest relatives of mantises are termites and cockroaches (Blattodea), which are all within the superorder Dictyoptera. Mantises are sometimes confused with stick insects (Phasmatodea), other elongated insects such as grasshoppers (Orthoptera), or other more distantly related insects with raptorial forelegs such as mantisflies (Mantispidae). Mantises are mostly ambush predators, but a few ground-dwelling species are found actively pursuing their prey. They normally live for about a year. In cooler climates, the adults lay eggs in autumn, then die. The eggs are protected by their hard capsules and hatch in the spring. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates after copulation.

    Mantises were considered to have supernatural powers by early civilizations, including ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, and Assyria. A cultural trope popular in cartoons imagines the female mantis as a femme fatale. Mantises are among the insects most commonly kept as pets.

    Taxonomy and evolution
    Over 2,400 species of mantis in about 430 genera are recognized.[1] They are predominantly found in tropical regions, but some live in temperate areas.[2][3] The systematics of mantises have long been disputed. Mantises, along with stick insects (Phasmatodea), were once placed in the order Orthoptera with the cockroaches (now Blattodea) and ice crawlers (now Grylloblattodea). Kristensen (1991) combined the Mantodea with the cockroaches and termites into the order Dictyoptera, suborder Mantodea.[4][5] The name mantodea is formed from the Ancient Greek words μάντις (mantis) meaning “prophet”, and εἶδος (eidos) meaning “form” or “type”. It was coined in 1838 by the German entomologist Hermann Burmeister.[6][7] The order is occasionally called the mantes, using a Latinized plural of Greek mantis. The name mantid properly refers only to members of the family Mantidae, which was, historically, the only family in the order. The other common name, praying mantis, applied to any species in the order[8] (though in Europe mainly to Mantis religiosa), comes from the typical “prayer-like” posture with folded forelimbs.[9][10] The vernacular plural “mantises” (used in this article) was confined largely to the US, with “mantids” predominantly used as the plural in the UK and elsewhere, until the family Mantidae was further split in 2002.[11][12]

    One of the earliest classifications splitting an all-inclusive Mantidae into multiple families was that proposed by Beier in 1968, recognizing eight families,[13] though it was not until Ehrmann’s reclassification into 15 families in 2002[12] that a multiple-family classification became universally adopted. Klass, in 1997, studied the external male genitalia and postulated that the families Chaeteessidae and Metallyticidae diverged from the other families at an early date.[14] However, as previously configured, the Mantidae and Thespidae especially were considered polyphyletic,[15] so the Mantodea have been revised substantially as of 2019 and now includes 29 families.[16]

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