The biggest lessons sometimes come from the smallest things. This was the case for me this morning in meditation. It started with a small sandfly of some sort that flew in and landed on the windowsill right beside the Buddha statue I was focussing on in meditation. It landed, wandered around a little, then just stayed in the one place. I shifted my focus to it and watched it waiting for it to move again but it didn’t, it just sat there.
As I continued to watch this little sandfly the awareness came to me that my urge was to reach out and crush it. I had that power and that would be the automatic thing for me to do when I see these little insects. Why? I suppose because I have been conditioned to think that they could be a threat, a minor threat at best, but a threat. But what sort of threat? A sting perhaps, probably unlikely and not that threatening in any way, to me at least. I do know some people who are allergic to such stings but I know that I am not. No, it is just something I do, unconsciously, and it occurred to me that this is taking a life, killing something that is so fragile and a gift from the accident of being on this particular planet. The only planet that may be in the universe that supports this magical force, life, as we know it. The same force that energises humans obviously but also little sandflies that land on my window sill and just sit there meditating with me, even if it isn’t aware of it.
When my meditation timer bell rang to signal the end of meditation I gently reached out with one finger to just touch the sandfly to see if it was in fact still alive. Yes it was and it moved a little away from the threat, the invasion of my finger in his sensory space. Now the roles were reversed as it were, I was a threat to it now. The enormity of the difference in size and strength simply overwhelmed me in the lingering calmness of my meditative state. I could extinguish this life with just a casual tap or swipe of my finger and probably not even notice the contact. The sandfly would though, in that brief instant before its life was extinguished and was no more.
How pervasive is this magical force, life, on this planet and how delicately it is balanced. Humans however seem hell bent on extinguishing every other life force on this planet and by doing so will hopefully extinguish itself, humanity that is. When that is gone what will be left? Where does this life force go, what is its future? Big questions, small answers of course. Nothing, there will be nothing left. It is a race to the end, the eternal end from which there is no recovery, just ask the planet Mars. Will the end of humanity precede all the plant life on this planet? Possibly not and while plants of some form survive, the life force will continue. But is it on the planet Mars anyway, lying dormant awaiting the right conditions to reappear, for life to sprout back into being? Even bigger questions there, dear reader, bigger than I can even envisage. Where is this life force then that informs the wakening of all forms of human, beast, flowers, trees, fish, micro organisms, on this planet? What is it, where is it, how does it survive? Something to exercise my mind, this little sandfly has shown me a bigger picture than I was aware of.
The realisation that I could just crush this little sandfly, extinguish the life that it has been fortunate to attain, struck me deeply. Why should I kill it? Why shouldn’t I just respect the miracle that it represents? Watch it live. But everything must die eventually of course. Life is not eternal, or not in any form that we have awareness of. Let it die of old age, or let someone else kill it if they so choose. I have no control over that but I do have control over what I can do or not do. Is that a cop out, let someone else kill it, either intentionally or accidentally or consequentially? No that is just the way it is, I can only deal with what I have the ability to deal with. And that doesn’t include protecting sandflies for their whole of life experience. It does include though dealing with my own karma and I don’t need to kill this little insect. Both my action and my intention have an effect. If I act and kill this insect what effect does that have on other lives, like its family perhaps? If I don’t act and just have an intention to let it be, to let it live its own life for as long as that lasts, either in my vicinity or elsewhere then that has an effect on my karma. It has had an effect already on what I am thinking and where those thoughts have led to. Like writing this piece. Like having a different attitude to other lives however large or small.
I noticed that automatic reaction about to happen, and which would have had I not been in meditation. The reaction would be to reach out and unconsciously, squash the little insect. Without any forethought, to blindly just extinguish a life. I think it is the blindness of it, to just take a life without honouring its presence in any way or having any rational reason to do so. Just kill. Death is an integral part of of any life, it has to be present at any time, waiting to overwhelm a life lived. Waiting in the shadows. Waiting its turn to complete the cycle of yin and yang that is the essence in the meaning of any life as we know it. But it seems somehow wrong to just take a life without any conscious thought. Something so major seems to demand some consideration, some rationale for doing it, some honouring.
Now maybe I can understand the purpose in some instances I have read, or seen in movies, where the killer offers a little prayer before taking a life. I can see how that might ease the pain of having to take a life because, yes, there are some situations which demand taking a life to save another. This I hasten to add wasn’t one of those. Kill or be killed may well be a valid thing in some circumstances. For instance if someone was threatening me or any of my family or friends I would not hesitate to take whatever desperate actions were necessary to protect their safety, including killing. Or is the ideal to never kill and to sacrifice your own life or any of your family’s lives to avoid killing another.
It is the unconsciousness of killing that worries me, a behaviour that I will hopefully have enough mindfulness or awareness of in future to not just reach out and kill something without any respect or honouring of that life. Killing can only be available as an option if the alternative action would be to be killed oneself. Again kill or be killed. Kill just has such a ring to it, a built in level of violence, a finality to a life or lives embodied in the word itself. Harsh. Violent. Indescribable pain. All embodied in that one word. Kill. And to do so without any forethought just makes it all the more violent and vicious and uncaring.
The substance of all of this went through my mind in the few seconds that the sandfly took before deciding that the best way to deal with its threat was to simply fly away, leaving me however with some major insights. Thank you little sandfly. I hope it went on to enjoy the rest of its life, it had had an unwittingly narrow escape.