“Happy is a yuppie word.”
~Switchfoot, Nothing Is Sound
I just finished watching Requiem for a Dream (Director’s Cut) again. I can’t see a game show without thinking about that movie. It explores the range of what people do to be happy in their lives, whether it is eating junk food or chocolate, reminiscing about the past, hoping & preparing for the future, escaping by doing hard-core drugs, having sex, losing weight, or watching television. So is happiness an escape from reality, or an amplification of reality? Maybe both…
We are so complex. Today, I killed a creature in the morning and showed mercy/love to the same type of creature in the evening. Our bathroom seems to be infested by tiny black ants. Every day, I see 2 or 3 of them crawling around the tiles or the sink. This morning, an unfortunate ant happened to be near the bottom of the sink right at the time I needed to wash my hands. I made the choice to drown him, and didn’t feel bad about it. Later this evening, I saw another ant on the tiles and let him crawl onto my hand; I wanted to examine him.
At first, he ran around like mad up and down my forearm and hand but I managed to calm him and myself by chanting “shh, shh, shh” and slowing my breathing down. He (she?) then started walking more slowly and stopped every few steps to kind of sit down and clean his antennae with his front 2 arms. I think he could sense that I wasn’t going to harm him. I was humbled by the complexity and life in the little creature, with his heavy bottom, big eyes, and grooming habits. It was a nice moment. I set him down in the bathtub and left him unharmed.
So when people talk about not killing animals/sentient beings, I always think about the little guys that die every day. The bedbugs in your bed, for instance, every time you roll over, or the hundreds of creatures you crush with the sole of your sneaker with every step in the grass.
So then, what about the tenant that you should never cause another being to suffer needlessly? When I was young, I pulled the legs and heads off of grasshoppers, just to see what would happen. The creature surely suffered for my curiosity. Of course I wouldn’t do that now…but I don’t have reason to. I’m not sadistic; I don’t enjoy the suffering of others. I’m too empathetic, and I tend to easily imagine and take on the pain of others.
Then, I watch my cat as she catches a fly or some small creature, injures it so it can’t get away, then plays with it to practice her reaction timing and hunting skills. When she bores of it, she walks away and leaves it to die.
So I have a hard time drawing the line on this one. On one hand, I have utmost respect & awe for any form of life (especially life/nature untouched by humans). On the other hand, I understand that every day, whether I choose to or not, many creatures will die because I live. I think the best I can do is, from time to time, to take time to honor and thank the life/death that makes my existence possible.
It’s like Khalil Gibran said about eating:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,
And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.
When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,
“By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”
And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,
“Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in you heart,
“I to am a vinyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.