Do you step around a beetle crawling across your path, or do you keep going? (Sorry, bug, sucks to be you. Shouldn’t have been in my way.)
It will probably surprise few that I stepped around one this morning (and almost tripped over my own two feet in the process, because I’m super-coordinated before 7am and all).
Not crushing bugs in my path is a simple way to practice the physical component of ahimsa, the Hindu concept of nonviolence. (Here’s a great peek at what it means beyond physically refraining from harming other beings.)
Also, although I find much of what Christianity continues to bring about (particularly recent legislation in this country) to be absolutely deplorable, there are a few passages in their holy book that I do like. One of them is when Jesus discussed how people were to treat “the least of these.” In Druidry as I practice it, there is no “least,” but there are certainly creatures we are more easily able to control or harm, should we wish to do so. And it’s easy to view the small ones, or the ones that don’t directly benefit us somehow, as expendable or insignificant.
For good or ill, the way we behave toward those who can’t help us and are helpless against us is indicative of our character.
My abilities, my human form, etc. are not things I chose. How dare I use them as evidence of some kind of innate superiority over other living things?
I’m not perfect. I’m not vegan (and don’t wish to be, honestly), I kill mosquitoes trying to bite my children, etc. so I clearly don’t apply this principle as consistently as someone might argue I should. But I do try.
When I got home and let the dogs out in the back yard, I noticed another beetle (same kind as before) on its back by the door. I thought at first that it was dead, and then saw it wave its legs, searching for some way to flip over. (And haven’t we all been knocked flat on our backs at some point, with no clear way to regain our balance?)
It would have been easy to ignore; it wasn’t in my way. But I am beginning to believe that indifference is one of the most despicable forms of active harm.
I picked up a small twig and held it out, giving a gentle tug when tiny legs locked onto it like a lifeline. The little brown beetle scurried off into the grass.
I am learning.