Raison D’être

Imagine going to buy eggs and discovering tiny volcanoes erupting all over usually groomed, green expanses.

The Saturday morning farmers’ market is held in the manicured grounds of the local TAFE college. But as we drove in, something didn’t look quite right. Little heaps of red dirt dotted the normally pristine lawns. A closer look revealed funnel like structures with at least one hole or entrance on top.


‘Lawn grubs?’ I suggested. ‘No, ants’, my daughter pointed to the busy little critters working on the mounds. ‘Mmmm,’ I mused, ‘but we’ve already had rain so they can’t be shoring up their nests in anticipation.’

I resolved to consult Mr Google about the mystery at first opportunity.

It appears these particular ants are known as funnel ants (genus: Aphaenogaster), so called for the shape of the entrance to their nests. The Australian Museum site says ‘These funnel-like entrances can be up to 4 cm in diameter and 30 cm deep. The nests can be so extensive and dense that their presence can severely affect soil structure, making it fragile and prone to collapse.’ Not good news for lawn lovers.

And there is more than one explanation for why they make funnel shaped mounds. One is that rather than preparing for rain, the ants are cleaning up the damage after a deluge by opening up the nests to dry them out.

Another suggests the shape of the funnel is a trap for unsuspecting insects to get caught in and be subsequently gobbled up by predatory funnel ants waiting for their next meal. It seems the explanation all depends on the perspective: pest controller or entomologist?

Whatever the reason for the behaviour, it reminded me what a morass the internet is. So much information right under our opposable thumbs, and not all of it correct or complete.

How much easier if we could speak ant. ‘So, how’s it going down there? Seen any good movies lately?’ Or, if I wanted to get right to the point: ‘just what function do your mounds serve?’

I see I have some serious ant-ism going on here. Who says everything in nature must have a function? But, it does, doesn’t it? I’m thinking hard and I can’t come up with even one example of a creature or natural phenomenon that doesn’t serve a function – a link in a chain of events – an enabler for something else. Including us.

As a meaning seeking species, is this the way we are wired? To see our world and all in it as serving purposes? If this is the case, why is it taking so long for me to find mine?

What is your ‘function’? Your raison d’etre; your reason for being?

“I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.” 
― Hugo Cabret

Do you agree with Hugo Cabret?




49 responses to “Raison D’être

  1. My guess would be that they are cleaning up after the rain; perhaps some tiny landslides in the nest? Every storm must be a deluge for the little ants and other minuscules.. but they fix things up and get on with it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I utterly love that quotation! By weird synchronicity just before reading your post I was watering my pots of roses. We have a lot of ants in our garden. They are literally everywhere. Every time I dig I disturb a nest and find a store of eggs. Whilst the ants get, well, antsy, they are fortunately not biters.
    But just now, I noticed that the system of holes they have made from top of the pot deeper down to the base, actually helps the drainage. A couple of weeks ago, I was struggling to get water down into the root system of the plants. Now, the tunnels seem wider, and I could see the water glugging down beautifully. So I think ants are our friends. They might make me feel a little itchy after I have seen them getting very agitated, but as far as I tell, that is the only harm they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ali I’m so glad your ants are having a positive effect on your pots. Just keep your eye on them because they can totally undermine. Of course there are many different kinds of ants as I discovered Glad you liked the quote ☺️


  3. Mmm. I’m not to sure about that quote. Mostly I feel like a random occurrence, so I don’t think I need a raison d’etre.

    And as for ants – I used to be very fond of them, but for the last few years my house has been invested by them and I’m surprised how ruthless I’ve become.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ruthless? I don’t believe it! A random occurrence eh? I can’t subscribe to that one. But that’s what makes a conversation like this one interesting. When I think of the pleasure your blog gives people Denise, if that was your sole raison d’être (and I don’t believe it is) then that would be enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your post put me in mind of a saying I once heard: Mother Nature, so careless of the individual, so careful of the species.
        I suspect all ants know it well.


      • So true. Ants being the social creatures they are know full well they must work as one to survive. Individualism has not worked for human society and we would do well to heed the lesson nature has to teach us.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post – there is something about ants…and something about why we are here…I don’t know why, but like everybody else, I have been thinking about it since a very young age. . I want to think I am doing some good things for other people – and being kind is one good thing I can go on being after I retired. I have come to one conclusion though…there is one animal, which I cannot see is being useful to anything or anyone – ticks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ants in the garden are fine. Ants in the linen cupboard, not so good 😦
    And flying ants are getting in everywhere at the moment! If I could talk ant language I would ask them, nicely, to please vacate my house.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this post and how you always bring the garden back to the big questions of life. It’s like a mirror to ourselves I think. raison d’etre- I believe we all have one and fulfill it by being fully ourselves. That’s the hard part though because it seems humans are always trying to fix themselves, get better, change. I prefer to think about letting go of our baggage to reveal our true selves rather than cutting out some tumorous growth of personality defects. Also maybe we will never known our reason for being but will have fulfilled it already. Maybe it’s as simple as sticking it out with a kid who needed a trusted adult and whose life was changed in some small moment of kindness. Or maybe it’s big like Mother a Theresa big. Do we have to know or can we just do the right thing and trust.


    • Thanks Catherine. The garden and nature is a way for me to ‘see’ the world. Yes, like a mirror of ourselves. I’m grateful for your comment on our reason for being. It’s always interesting to know how others view that question: ‘why are we here?’ I think you’re right about a propensity to see ourselves as needing fixing. Perhaps the self-help industry is responsible for elevating that need. Although I do think self reflection is crucial. I like your notion of not knowing, of perhaps even having already fulfilled what we are here for. I’m all for trusting the universe. It’s worked for me so far : )

      Liked by 1 person


    Why am I
    Who are you
    Where is there
    When is then

    But: what
    is this, and
    How to bow
    Before it–

    That’s the last
    And best quest-
    Ion to ask.

    (Sorry, Robyn, couldn’t help myself. I’ve been puzzling too long over being. Riddles and spells and songs are my last resort. And just plain looking. Thanks for that new and information!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Finding the Purpose of (My) Life-Catherine Matthews Images-Life through my lens. Writer, Photographer and Artist.·

  9. I suspect my raison d’etre is to give pleasure to other people with my art, but II’ve often wished it were to give myself pleasure. I guess I get some of it indirectly from others’ enjoyment.

    The ants… well, there they are with their buckets and spades, and where else are they to put the soil they’ve dug?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I must confess that as much as I don’t enjoy the carpenter ants when they get in the house, I am in awe of the little ant that can do so much more than most with what it’s got. Perhaps there are some traits about the ants that we as humans should emulate? They always work together. They take on more than their fair share. They always know where they’re going. I’m sure there are other things, but something about the mighty ant resonates with me. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

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