Monday, May 14, 2012

Killing things

Killing Fields Memorial
Siem Riep, Cambodia

 I killed a rat today.

It was a truly excruciating experience. We have rats living around the house who have been coming to the bird feeder, and on principle, one just doesn't want to have rats around. I have a pellet gun which I keep handy for instances like this; I shot the rat, not as cleanly as one might wish, and then dispatched it with a shovel.

Death and killing are such routine things on this planet that we very nearly take them for granted. Let's admit it—most of us have been to movie theaters and actually enjoyed watching movies where people and other things get killed, willy-nilly... we call it “entertainment.”

Call me what you will, but despite this perverse impulse I just don't see how any thinking, feeling creature can actually enjoy killing another creature. Our inner parts, the sensitive parts that are connected to something, ought to absolutely sense how grave and terrifying this action is. It's not just a matter of sentimentality; the entire nervous system might actually be physically attuned to the life of other creatures, and when one kills, one pays a price for it, whether one realizes it or not.

This isn't an ethical or theoretical premise I am discussing; I'm talking about the organic experience of life and death. If we don't receive the organic experience of life and death as an understanding, everything is theoretical. Everything. How can we understand life and this planet if we take such things for granted, and have no feeling-sensation of them?

It isn't, of course, practical to live without killing things; like most people, I eat meat, and I've certainly dispatched my share of dangerous spiders (black widows, for example) mosquitoes, and so on. I used to be a game fisherman (I am a reasonably good surfcaster), and I killed an awful lot of large fish during that period. Evidently I have no strong leanings towards Jainism.

 There comes a point in inner work, however, where one can't possibly enjoy this. There is something absolutely horrible about dispatching another creature. I don't know how to explain the effect on the nervous system, but if one senses anything rightly, one senses that this is a terribly difficult thing. It's why I gave up fishing. One can begin to understand practically why more essence-based cultures, such as the Native American culture, apologized to animals before they killed them. We ought to. We don't have a right to destroy everything around us. This question goes back to the question of conscience, my last post about the biological imperative, and what we are doing here.

We don't have a right to destroy everything around us just because we don't understand it. Every tiny life out there—even the smallest insect—has a purpose for being here. We should think about that quite carefully. Small things are not useless things. Every big thing is made of small things, and when we neglect or damage the small things, we neglect and damage everything.

Everything works together; everything is tied together by invisible relationships that are not even remotely understood, even by the most sophisticated biologists. We don't really know what we are doing when we kill things and destroy things. We take on the responsibility for every one of the deaths we are involved with. There is a great difference between doing that unconsciously, and doing it consciously. It's much more difficult in the latter case.

Readers will recall that Mr. Gurdjieff referred to mankind as “biped destroyers of nature's good.”

The term seems all too appropriate.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.