instar

If your life is a movie you star in…

…wait, why just one movie? Why not a serial, with installments? And restarts? Instants and incidents and incidences? Like a train with many cars… or a series of trains?

Our lives have some continuity, of course: we are wave forms flowing through time and space. But we pass through different phases: levels of education, of work, of relationships. And each time, we wear a new costume and play a new role, and then we shed the costume and move on to the next.

And, sure, we are not so significant in the grand view of things. Even the most famous person is, sub specie æternitatis, no more significant than an insect, and the great starring roles of life just so many instars: egg, larva, pupa, adult.

That is what an instar is: a phase in an insect’s life, each instar divided from the next by the clear junction of moulting – or, to use the specific technical term, ecdysis. (If that word looks familiar, you are probably thinking now of ecdysiast, a jocularly hifalutin way of referring to a stripper, i.e., someone who removes clothing in a performance for the entertainment of others.) Now, admittedly, ecdysis is a bit of a strain, and it’s not something one trains for, but it must happen and it will. And then it enters its next instar.

And is the next instar. The word also refers to the insect in that stage. It not only has four (or however many) instars, it is four (or however many) instars in sequence. The word comes from Latin instar, which means ‘form’ or ‘figure’ or ‘likeness’.

For an insect, the adult instar is normally considered the last instar, even if it moults again after reaching sexual maturity. The adult instar ends in death. For humans, for whom we may use the term figuratively, I don’t see why we can’t be a bit looser – people continue to move to new roles with new skins to wear long after they’ve reached adulthood. Perhaps they stay in one house or one job for many years, and then shed that and take on a new skin. It would be as painful and transforming. And then a new instar would star in a new instar.

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2 responses to “instar

  1. I loved the instars of the article, from biological to philosophical to spiritual… Splendid, as ever!

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