By Paul Chimera
A very strange thing has happened between insects and me – I no longer wish to squish their mortal coil into oblivion.
In fact, with Buffalo’s weather now setting a warm and sunny stage for flies, ants, spiders and other crawly things, what used to be a reflex response from me – kill them – now leaves me virtually incapable of doing so. I have no idea why I’ve changed.
Just the other night I spotted a spider on the wall heading down to the basement. For only a nanosecond, the impulse was to grab a paper towel and destroy the unwelcome eight-legged intruder. Then I quickly perished that thought, got a cup and piece of cardboard, coaxed the arachnid into the vessel and shipped it outside via the breezeway.
It probably didn’t survive the cool night air, but I walked away with a clear conscience and no blood on my hands.
I treated a fly similarly. And although it hasn’t happened as of this writing, I expect a few ants to find their way onto the hardwood floor of our living room, courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling picture window, before another glorious Western New York summer is through.
The old me – you might guess this by now – would have gassed the pests to a quick demise. Or squeezed the life out of them with a Kleenex. But not anymore.
Why the change of attitude?
Actually, I have a few theories. One pertains to guilt and regret. When I was a child, I would actually take impish delight in ceremoniously killing certain insects. I especially despised grasshoppers, bees and slugs. All these decades later, I still feel guilty about that.
Then there’s my increasing appreciation that virtually every creature of God’s creation – noble or annoying, large or small – has a designated purpose and a right to live. Or at least not to die ingloriously.
I know how ridiculous this must sound, when one considers the lowly ant or the creepy spider. Heck, I’m not at all clear in my own head why this is all suddenly affecting my sensibilities this way. Some things are unexplainable, yet no less important to our personal sense of authenticity.
Maybe being a father, step-father and grandfather informs my new insect attitude some. Nothing makes one more appreciative of how precious life is, and how vulnerable some living organisms can be, than embracing the love and joy of parenthood and grandparenthood.
Moreover, I’ve come to find awe in even the simplest and most basic of tiny creatures. When you stop to consider that the nearly microscopic insects you can barely see crawling on a sidewalk or up a gutter are a minute biosystem, all pretty miraculously coordinated to give it life (and presumably some purpose), it makes it harder to cavalierly decide to stomp it out.
By now I suspect readers will think I’ve completely lost my mind. Could they be right? Perhaps. I hope not, but who knows?
Australian actress Holly Valance once said, “I never kill insects. If I see ants or spiders in the room, I pick them up and take them outside. Karma is everything.”
Maybe that’s what’s going on here. Maybe I’m subconsciously motivated by fear.
Then there’s this, from British author and commentator Karen Armstrong, known for her books on comparative religion:
“In the holy city of Mecca, violence of any kind was forbidden. From the moment they left home, pilgrims were not permitted to carry weapons, to swat an insect or speak an angry word, a discipline that introduced them to a new way of living.”
I rather like my new way of living. I know for sure the insects approve.