What value a bug’s life? What value a child’s uniqueness?
Have you ever found a spider in your shower?
What did you do? How did you react?
Click on the link to read the poem “Hello Spider”.
I wrote the poem this week after encountering an 8-legged friend in my shower.
As the poem reveals, I am quite happy to share my world with spiders. However I am rather reluctant to share my shower with them – they just might jump on me! Arggh!
I don’t really know why I crushed the spider with the broom after it had so willingly vacated the shower. I suffer deep pangs of remorse at having done so; but I did keep a very watchful eye on it while I was in the shower – just to make sure it wasn’t going to come back and jump on me. And all the while, it didn’t move. It stayed very still.
Later, out of the shower and fully dressed, I spotted a spider of similar size on the ceiling. Two spiders in one morning, I thought: must be an infestation! I checked out the spider on the floor, and found it wasn’t there. It was the spider on the ceiling – resurrected! Now that there was no possibility of it interrupting my shower, I was greatly relieved to see that I hadn’t killed it after all.
While I did write this poem as a bit of fun, it does raise a philosophical dilemma.
Do we have the right to kill other creatures? And if so: Which ones? When? Why?
These questions lead far deeper too, into many other issues about which we must make ethical decisions. However, at the moment I am just considering our right to kill these tiny creepy crawlies that invade our homes and personal spaces. It is okay, isn’t it? What value a bug’s life anyway?
Various readings have contributed to how I think about this. A few in particular spring to mind un-beckoned when confronted with tiny creatures in my home. For example if a cockroach should dare to make an appearance in my kitchen, invariably I grab the closest killing implement (e.g. shoe) and put the tiny creature out of its misery – or mine.
But I always apologise to the cockroach for having robbed it of its life, so that makes it alright. Right?
But is it really alright if I persist in repeating that very same action every time I find another cockroach in my kitchen? Is it real remorse? Do I really have the right to do this to one of the most resilient and perennial creatures on Earth?
Many years ago when reading Chesapeake by James A. Michener (Random House, 1978) I was challenged by the description of an attitude held by the colonialists towards various groups of people who were considered to be non-human animals. I thought that if it was so easy to disregard the humanity of so many groups of people, are we underestimating the worth of animals.
The tenet of Buddhist philosophy, ‘do no harm’ is also challenging, and niggles away with thoughts that pop-up to tease and taunt me whenever the issue of life or death presents itself.
And of course, the unmerciful slaughter of Roald Dahl’s hero, Lexington, in the short story Pig (Collected Short Stories, Penguin Books, 1992) makes me cringe with abhorrence. Why not then for the pigs?
So many thoughts. So many issues. So many ethical decisions.
Please feel free to comment on any related issue that may be of importance to you.
I’m going to take it just one step further to another analogy, that of education.
When we try to mould a child to fit a certain expectation at a particular age, when we impose a set curriculum that provides no opportunity for negotiation, when we leave no room for self-directed investigation, when creativity and curiosity are lightly valued, are we not quashing the essence of what makes that child unique? Of what potential is the world being robbed? Are not the free thinkers, the innovators, the ones who see outside the square, the ones who challenge what is for what might be, are they not the ones who change the world?
Sometimes it seems that the uniqueness of child can be as carelessly squashed as a spider in a shower.
“Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?” George Bernard Shaw (Back to Methuselah, 1921)