This is the story of how, in one brief moment, I was transformed from a compassionate quasi-Buddhist into a maniacal mass murderer.
Sandra and I live in a tropical climate. It is usually quite pleasant to live in a perpetual summer. Occasionally, there are exceptions.
One of the effects of all this warmth is an abundance of insects. Having lived for 3.5 years in the rainforest in a house that was open to the environment (no windows to close, no screens), we had become accustomed to living with lizards, birds, bats and a huge variety of insects sharing our space. We even used to have a ‘bug of the day’ contest to see who could discover an insect variety that we had not previously seen. We did not kill these creatures who shared our home (except mosquitoes– after all, they may carry Dengue). We had adopted a very Buddhist-like attitude… All life is sacred.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not one of those people who like to pretend that food bought in a store was created in a Star Trek replicator. I know that, in order for me to live, other life forms must die. I have personally slaughtered and butchered other creatures, even fellow mammals, in order to get food, so I am well aware of the fact that we all have blood on our hands. I am just saying that I don’t believe in killing other life forms, unless it is necessary to prolong my own life, either by way of using them as food or by removing them when they are an immediate threat to my life.
We recently moved from our rainforest home on Dominica to a more arid climate on St. Vincent and we had substantially fewer insects in our living space and more lizards (geckoes, etc) to control them.
Sugar ants are as common as dirt here and people need to take precautions. All food must be stored in sealed containers; nothing can be left on the counter and food preparation areas must be cleaned constantly. Nevertheless, they are everywhere. We mostly ignore them. They don’t harm us. There is no need for us to harm them. I was still able to work at being respectful of the sacredness of the lives of my fellow creatures that share this beautiful planet with me. I am offended by the casual and callous disregard for life that my fellow humans often demonstrate. I used to feel smug in my selective but compassionate Buddhist approach to being in the world.
Then it happened. I fell from grace.
My downfall happened early one morning when I went into the kitchen to feed the cats as I usually do before my morning meditation and walk. I had forgotten to clean up their dishes from last night’s meal, and when I went to pick up these cat dishes, I discovered that they were full of tiny ants. Ok, No big deal. Put the dishes outside and wait for the ants to finish cleaning them out. Use other dishes for the cats this morning.
Then, I noticed that the walls were covered in these sugar ants and so were our countertops. I don’t mean that there were a few hundred or even thousands of sugar ants. There were so many that the countertops appeared to be moving. One column moving across the wall was about 6 inches wide and over ten feet long. This was too much. Each ant is only this big —. Imagine how many it would take to fill up that column and cover the kitchen counters. There were millions upon millions of these tiny creatures invading my space. It was eerie and repulsive and I hadn’t even had my coffee. I didn’t deserve this mess; at least this early in the day.
I decided to remove (kill) them, so I grabbed a wet cloth and started to wipe down the counters and walls. Soon these ants were crawling all over me. Thousands of them. That, by itself, was quite irksome, but now these were pissed off, not just pesky, pissants. They started to bite me. I was under attack. I jumped in the shower to rinse them off. Then, I got serious about murder. Cold blooded, intentional, mass murder.
I sprayed every surface in the kitchen with Windex and wiped the ants into oblivion. I then got a can of insect spray from our neighbor and sprayed every crack or opening on every surface and every cupboard. Then, I went outside and located two teeming nests in the ground and poured boiling water down in to the holes and then, covered them in salt. I was gleeful in my homicidal actions, and at the end of my rampage, self-congratulatory at my success.
That night I dreamt that I was carried away by ants, like they often will carry away food remnants or dead insects. My guilty conscience. In one crazy moment I was transformed into a maniacal murderer. Now in my sleep, I pay the price for my crime.