Kindness in the Time of Cicadapocalypse

After more than a decade sipping tree sap underground, as many as a trillion cicadas are now emerging en masse for a blockbuster bug bash, a meeting of two broods that have not surfaced at the same time in over 200 years. Some people are calling it the cicadapocalypse, but this once-in-a-lifetime event is cause for jubilation. It may even make us better people, at least for a while.

The cicadas’ loud, rhythmic songs will reverberate from trees across 16 states, the latest rare, natural wonder to capture public interest. Like the recent solar eclipse and the Northern Lights in the United States, such natural phenomena can take us outside ourselves — and literally take us outside — allowing us to feel awe-struck.

Such experiences are critical to making us happier and kinder. Psychologists have found that the wonders of nature can inspire a collective sense of awe that we are often missing in our daily lives, prompting people to share, care and assist. That suggests our focus on this extraordinary cicada event may help us feel more connected and part of something larger, and we may consequently act more generously and compassionately.

That doesn’t mean I’m all cicada love. When a cicada group snagged headlines and blanketed the sidewalks of Washington, D.C., in 2021, I wasn’t exactly overcome with rapture, as the large insects repeatedly flew into our baby stroller and amassed on our windshield.

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