The stink bugs are assembling. Watching me, waiting. Gathering. Biding their time. Accumulating in odd formations, monitoring me from every angle.
I wonder if they have passed on a legend over the past two years (which probably seems much longer to stink bugs). About the time I was tasked with solving the problem of their over-abundance in my mother and stepfather’s house. I took my duty very seriously, and determined not to kill a single one.
Some people laugh at me for this, but they can suck my stink bug.
Is it truly so difficult? To empathize with a bug?
Just watch them. Observe. One moves across the wall, then stops. Re-positions. Heads the other way. Hangs a left at the lamp. Gets into a nearby position and lingers there.
Why did she do that? What’s on her mind?
What happens if I were to make her feel threatened?
She’d attempt to get away. She’d fail miserably with 99% certainty. Stink bugs aren’t all that spry.
If I were to crush her, to crush them all, then I could go about my day and forget that they were ever there. Well, except there may be a lingering odor. They are stink bugs, after all.
If I were to destroy the small army of stink bugs gathering before me today, some people may look at that as purging my turf. Ridding myself of an invader. Exterminating an infestation.
But that’s not how I see it.
If I were to destroy them, how I would see it, is that I’d be murdering life-forms that want to be alive. If they didn’t want to be alive, they would just sit there when you go after them.
Purging my turf? I don’t have a turf. If I do, it’s the whole universe. Any objective analysis of what humans have done in terms of securing properties and building houses make it quite clear that we’re just as much invaders and harbingers of infestation as any other being.
I mean, have you ever put any thought into how much chaos you stir up every time you mow the lawn?
What beings resided on your property before the concept of property was invented? Did anyone care that those beings were not only evicted and/or killed for the sake of you having a home, but furthermore sprayed, swatted, poisoned, squashed, or otherwise eradicated if they ever came in to check out your new pad?
Call me extreme, if you wish.
It’s common for people to applaud the virtue of speaking up for the voiceless, but the applause usually ceases when we get to the point beyond that which our hearts will choose to go.
But our hearts can go further. And they should.
This is not just some empty hippie rhetoric.
I happen to be someone who found myself empathizing with creatures like ants from a very early age. Over the years, I faced my fears for beings like spiders and snakes, so that I can empathize more with them too. And this empathy has not been pointless.
Through this heartfelt analysis and exploration of microcosmic vessels, I’ve been stimulated to take in macrocosmic implications about the universe.
Think about what a human must look like to a flea. Can a flea even comprehend us? We’re likely so enormous that fleas probably have no frame of reference for what we are. But one thing is for certain. When we slaughter fleas, we’re nothing more to them than a natural disaster.
Now, think about the natural disasters humans deal with. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, sharknados.
How certain are you that these events aren’t related to the non-empathetic tirades of beings that are as immense to us as we are to fleas?
Seriously. How certain could you possibly be?
There aren’t necessarily giants causing our human problems, but then again, isn’t Nature itself a giant all its own?
Some people look at our disasters as punishment from divine forces. Others think the planet is fighting back. Yet others might just think it all pure chaotic and meaningless, or an ordered instance of cause and effect.
All of those concepts are giants. Much bigger than we are as humans. No matter which explanation you choose to explain our natural disasters, you are quite small and relatively helpless in comparison.
Like a flea. Or a stink bug. Or some other “pest.” Like John Leguizamo or whatever.
Just entertain this notion for half a second: What if by being kind to beings exponentially smaller than us, we find a gateway to receive grace and kindness from systems exponentially larger than us?
Do not ask, “Why would God let this happen?” about devastating hurricanes and human tragedies, without also asking, “Why do I let this happen?” about humanity’s own devastating lack of regard for life.
To this planet, we are definitely more of a nuisance than a battalion of stink bugs amassing on the Western front.
And that’s no guilt trip. Just the facts. And we can do better for our planet, better for Mother Nature. Part of doing better for Mother Nature is being compassionate, empathetic, and nurturing to every living being she begets.
In my mind, I imagine people responding here: “But Nature is brutal. Dog eat dog. Kill or be killed. Survival of the fittest. Non-human animals slaughter each other and that’s natural. Circle of life.”
To which I reply: “Hey, you. Do you have a prefrontal cortex? Have you developed the capacity for both complex logic and dynamic emotional processes? Do you have the ability to imagine and visualize what it’s like to be someone else, and observe other beings’ most dominant commonality, which is an instinct to sustain our own lives?”
That is what makes you different than whatever dogs are eating other dogs. That is what puts you in a position to make a higher order of decisions. This is what makes us human.
Also published on Medium.