My first-cousin-once-removed and I had a short exchange on her Facebook page the other day. She had killed a spider that she’d found inside her home and commented on the effect that the creature had on her. I was quick to notice that the effect that her actions had on me were of quite another nature.
I replied that I was the sort to capture the misdirected creature and take it outdoors. I wrote that I, too, had been misdirected at times and was glad that I had not met a similar fate as the spider. She responded that there was a difference between people and other beings.
That set me to thinking: Was there a difference, and if so, what was it, and where is this line drawn?
I had to go back to the reference that I know best, and that most folks will reference when such differences arise: The Bible. First I noted that God created all of the beasts of the Earth, all of the residents of the seas, and every creeping thing, and afterwards, He saw that it was good. Only later did He bother creating Man, which was, perhaps, His only mistake. Later in the story, it was told that God gave Man stewardship over all of the Earth. This tells me that He entrusted Man with the welfare of everything on the planet. Nowhere does it seem to indicate that Man can take life indiscriminately, only that some of the creatures were suitable for food. Furthermore, God’s directions became more precise, that Man Shall not kill. I take it that killing is killing.
If it is ‘okay’ to kill spiders, when does it become ‘not okay’ to kill other creatures? The Bible does not go into detail, and this is, unfortunately, where the Devil is to be found.
My son showed me a short video that he had found on the Internet, which had been recorded on a ‘Smart’ phone. In the video, two male youths were standing on a tall bridge which spanned a deep, dry gully of about 120 feet. As soon as a car had passed and no others were coming, one of the boys lifted a small collie type dog, which the other boy had been holding, up and over the bridge railing. Without hesitation, he dropped the poor, hapless creature into the void. The animal reached desperately for something to land on, but nothing was there. The dog had seven good seconds to contemplate its fate until he landed violently in a huge puff of dust.
I was not prepared for what I was shown, as I assumed that I was going to view more light-hearted fair. The video was ten seconds of horror for me. Things went black momentarily so incredulous was I that anyone could do such an inhumane thing. He told me that the video had made him physically sick, and that he kept it to remind himself that irrespective of how nice people may act, you never know when you may be standing behind one of these soulless individuals at the checkout in Wal-Mart.
My son may be lots of things that others may find objectionable, but I have raised him to be Real.
My cousins’ comment brought the sickening image back to my memory. What would she think about the video? Would she still insist that there was a difference? That her killing of the spider in some way differed from the execution of the dog, based merely on size? I chose not to press the subject farther, as effortlessly I could have. After all, it was her profile page, not mine. Otherwise, there would have been a huge discussion over the subject of the supposed ‘difference’. I cannot fathom the difference that she so easily sees.
One day, while mowing some overgrown grass in my ‘cat graveyard’, I ran over and hit a turtle. My stomach sank. I stopped mowing immediately to assess the damage, but the turtle had met its fate in a way that I could not bear to imagine. I saw that the turtle was a female and was carrying eggs. I immediately felt responsible for snuffing out countless generations, and was overcome with grief. I wept in a way, which, for most ‘men’, would be ‘unacceptable’. Without hesitation, I prepared a grave and buried the turtle, keeping only a portion of her plastron, the bottom half of her shell. This, I later sanded smooth and drilled a hole through in order to wear about my neck on a chain. This chain has my I.D. or ‘dog tags’, and a guitar pick, as well as other pieces of other animals which I have regretted killing.
I keep these items with me to remember the animal, and as a constant reminder that killing is something which I have never liked, and now hate, doing. I am sorely aware that, throughout my day, I go about killing, unintentionally, all sorts of microbes and cells (as some argumentative pea-brained idiots are sure to attempt to point out), but I am referring to intentional killing without due cause. I’ll allow those with nothing better to do to discuss the ‘finer’ definition of ‘due cause’, but I am quite certain that my meaning is already fully defined without any ‘justifying’ as to the other types.
I mentioned the cat graveyard. At one time during my misspent youth, I was unkind to cats. I do not believe that I ever killed one, but I probably made one wish that it were dead. I don’t know, I’ve blocked the memory sufficiently. However, I learned at some point that cats have been the most persecuted animal in the history of man.
The Black Plague can be traced back directly to mans’ idiotic superstitious nature. They were thought to be the embodiment of evil, the stuff of witches and whatnot, and were exterminated without mercy. God’s balance, being upset, led to an over-abundance of mice and rats, which were hosts to the flea which carried the Plague, and thousands of people died for their ‘sins’, the meaning of which I refer to the original Greek and Aramaic interpretation as ‘missing the mark’, not the modern ‘Christian’ version of ‘being bad’, what ever that means.
Nonetheless, at some later time in my life, I acknowledged the erring of my ways, and as a way of seeking penance, decided to spend the rest of my life taking up for these poor creatures. I have several who keep me company and show me (usually) unconditional love.
I have been made aware that before I am capable of ‘doing something’ big, I must first learn to do something little. Life reflects this is our learning of everything, whether it be language, art or, in this case, compassion. I recall that, days after watching the video with the dog, I kept replaying it in my head, trying desperately to change the ending. As my imagination sped ahead of me, I saw myself running up and grabbing the punk and, very deliberately, lifting him, kicking and screaming, over the railing and dropping him as he had dropped the dog. I wanted him to taste the terror that the dog felt during its last moments. Don’t give me empty words about ‘hating the sin and loving the sinner’, I wanted to kick this kid’s ass. But perhaps cruelty and hatred make people this way, but there’s no way to know. Besides, that’s simply psycho-analytical bullshit for blaming someone else for ones own actions. Blame shifting. I don’t buy it.
How can we cultivate compassion for this kind of vile individual? How can we be expected to love everyone as we love ourselves if jackasses like this exist in the world?
I can only surmise that we must practice on smaller things first.
I started out by avoiding stepping on ants. The purpose of which serves to make me aware of all the bigger things. If I step on a snail and I hear the shell crush beneath my weight, my day is literally ruined. I feel that killing leads us farther from the Truth rather than closer to it, because compassion teaches us to be awake and conscious of everything instead of only ourselves. I think that killing, whether out of love or in times of war is wrong, and I cannot see any time that it is justifiable. I do not hide behind the shield of God and I take full responsibility for every precious life that I have ended prematurely. It is not my place to judge whether something ‘needs’ to die or not, I will only take a life in order to preserve my own, for this is what I see in the world around me. When I eat meat, I do so with a conscious knowledge in that something died so that I may continue to live. That is what I call ‘giving thanks’, and I attempt to be present with each bite I take.
I still think that the kid in the video was an asshole and hope that he got caught and that he rots in jail. Obviously, I still have a ways to go before I can feel true compassion for other humans. But for now, I think that people are the meanest damned animals on the planet.
I try to remember that this world was not made for ‘me’, I am only leasing a small space in time on it, just like everything else, and I attempt to respect the higher purpose which I cannot fully comprehend.
The way I see it, there is no difference in life, only a different scale in size.