FEELING ANTSY

By Paul

I don’t mean to mislead you by the title. I’m not feeling antsy in the sense that I’m restless, or eager to move on to something new and different.  I’m not fidgety, or edgy, or restive, or jittery, but I am ill-at-ease.  And in this case, it’s all about ants!

I guess I ought to be used to it by now. It’s a reoccurring problem here in Southern California.  Every August, during those dreaded dog-days of summer, we have to deal with ant attacks.  They often start in the bathroom, but in the end they invariably migrate out into the kitchen, which is where they really want to be.  Sometimes they make a stop along the way in the pantry, too, but as often as not they pass completely by that larder of plenty, and head straight for what they’re really after, namely, water!  Yes, it’s water that draws them, even when I, for one, cannot see any water standing around.  Sometimes it’s enough that you’ve left a damp sponge on the rim of the sink, and they’re at it, like flies on honey.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll drop that tired old cliché entirely from my vocabulary from this moment forward, and instead substitute the far more apt, and more immediately useful, phrase: “like ants to water!” 

The cause of it all is the heat.  And not only the heat, but the dryness.  These past couple of weeks have seen temperatures rise to the upper 80’s, and even into the low 90’s, with no particular cooling trend in the offing in anything like the immediate future.  And of course, no rain, ever.  Not that this is something unexpected here in California at this time of year, nor – it would seem – for many in other parts of the country, where they have been suffering far more than we.  But even the Romans had to deal with something similar every year, which in fact is where we get the name dog-days, as you may already know.  They associated these miserable, oppressive, sultry days of boiling, broiling, stifling heat with the so-called Dog Star, Sirius.  It’s the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, which itself means Greater Dog.  And for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it appears most prominently from July to early September, making all living things on this part of the planet as wretchedly uncomfortable as possible. 

Still, I’m not yet ready to attempt the principal cure of the Romans, which they tried repeatedly with, one has to think, unfailing lack of success, namely, the sacrifice of a brown dog to mollify and appease the sparkling magnificence of the dreaded Dog Star.  Truth be told, I don’t even really like killing the ants.  And there’s the rub, or at least part of it.  I look at these creatures, tiny as they are, and I think that each one is an almost incredibly perfect being in its own right.  It amazes me that these minuscule insects are so astonishingly well made, each with its own kind of life force that generates movement and intention (of a sort anyway, maybe more chemical in this case, rather than volitional, as we might think of it), but with a head and eyes and six legs that allow it to cover every conceivable kind of terrain, including up walls and across ceilings, with antennae waving which they use to communicate mysterious messages to others of their kind, far removed from all human understanding.

In addition, on a somewhat different, though I hope related note, I happen to have been reading recently about the Jain religion of India.  I have learned, for example, that Mahavira, the last in the line of the great Jain gurus (a contemporary of the Lord Buddha, by the way), taught utter non-violence toward every creature on the planet.  It goes without saying, of course, that not only do observant Jains refrain from eating animals, nor do they wear animal products of any kind, but the most serious among their practicing monks walk about with gauze draped over the mouth and the nose, so as avoid any inadvertent breathing in of insect or other life forms.  They can also be seen walking slowly along with small, soft brooms in their hands, gently brushing the path in front of them, lest unsuspecting, though nonetheless deadly, trampling feet may bring an untimely end to the life of a tiny creature in their way.  They do not even eat fruit which has to be cut from trees, but wait instead for it to fall to the ground, rather than taking knife to a living branch.  The ultimate goal of such ne plus ultra non-violence, just as with the Buddhists, is the complete annihilation of the ego, and thus the cessation of the cycle of endless births and deaths and rebirths, so as to avoid the pain (and the potential destruction) involved with being born yet one more time in yet one more body.  For to be in a body, almost by definition, is to murder other living beings. 

Thus, I stand before you here today, accused, judged, condemned.  Un-Jain-like, indeed un-Buddha-like in the extreme, I am a killer.  I have destroyed hundreds, perhaps thousands of ants, living creatures with rights of their own, merely in the last three days.  How far is that, I ask myself, from walking along with a broom, sweeping the path in front of me, lest I inadvertently step on one of these, the least of God’s creatures?  I am not even a very good vegetarian, truth be told.  I used to be better, when I was at least “ovo-lacto,” that is, when I ate only eggs and milk products for protein.  These days, however, I kill fish, as well (or at least I participate in the killing by buying it).  Some odd doctor or other convinced me years ago that I was eating too many eggs and too much cheese, and thus contributing to higher levels of cholesterol in my body, which itself then contributed to at least two heart attacks.  So, I decided to sacrifice fish – brown dog like? – on the altar of what I call my health.  Just as I have made the decision to kill ants, as many as possible, in the name of living in a home free of the intrusion of creatures constantly creeping about over sponges and glasses and whatever other dish or implement we may have inadvertently been left about on the counter near the sink. 

And so, I admit to you my imperfections, and I accept that, if the Jains and the Buddhists and the Hindus are right, I will have to reincarnate yet once again, having sadly failed at that one killing allowed even to the greatest of the sages, that is, of the ego itself.  For now though, it seems that I must muddle along in my murderous ways.  I will do it, though, as much as I am able to, without anger, without malice, and with whatever honoring in my heart I can muster for the perfection of other living beings, all the while taking heart from the words of the Lord Krishna himself to Arjuna, his reluctant warrior of a disciple, in that great book of war and killing, the Bhagavad Gita:

Thou grievest where no grief should be!  Thou speakest words lacking in wisdom, for the wise in heart mourn not for those that live, nor those that die.  Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these ever was not, nor ever will not be, forever and forever afterwards…Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!  Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!  Birthless and deathless and changeless the spirit forever; and Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it may seem!

 

18 thoughts on “FEELING ANTSY

  1. Paul,
    A wonderful read; thank you! As for Martin and I, we deal with the ant population through Terminix. Yes, we hire someone else to do our slaying!

  2. It is always an internal conflict for me when dealing this issue, I use the powder that the ants then take back to their nest. I am obliterating a whole colony, how can I reconcile that with my desire to pacifist and live whilst having the least impact on other living creatures. But then, if everything were to live and nothing were killed we would probably see the destruction of the earth sooner than later from over, over crowding…

    Great post, your way with words is sensational, thank you.

  3. I live in Texas where we have not only ants of painful and plentiful varieties, but cockroaches. This is where my Buddhist compassion gets kicked off the bus. I invite instead the Arlo Guthrie of the Thanksgiving Day Massacree: “I wanna kill!” and imagine I am freeing their roach spirits to move to another, more elegant and conscious life further up the spiritual (and literal) food chain. Back in my vegetarian days, we used to send them off to cheers of “Happy Life Cycle!”

    May all beings be happy.

    (This is an excerpt from a longer and much snarkier blog post of my own about this same internal dialog between killing invasive bugs and staying purely Buddhist. If you have a strong stomach and a twisted sense of humor, I will send you the rest of it.)

  4. My brother recommended I would possibly like this website. He was once entirely right. This submit actually made my day. You can’t believe just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  5. Hey Paul,
    A few hints. Use chalk or citrus. Draw chalk lines around areas you want to protect. Ants hate the calcium carbonate in chalk and will steer clear. Also, sprinkle lemon or orange or anything citrus around troubled areas, ants will avoid, soon no more ants. And of course, chalk and citrus are clean and safe to use. Congrats on FP.

  6. Oh, I can relate, my friend! I’m also in Southern California and, like you, I have quite an ant problem. I’m not a fan of the show, but I recall one episode of Family Guy wherein the family was under attack from fleas. At one point Peter turns to Lois and says “Well, there’s only one thing left to do. Mate with their women. In time, our differences will be forgotten.”

    It’s the running joke in my house now. Mate with their women. In time, our differences will be forgotten.

    Great post!

  7. great post. Here in Hawaii we get lots of ants that are a nuisance. They are the little tiny creatures -crazy ants I call them. Water, sometimes, sugar, sometimes grease – they change their diet quite often. Like you I care not for the killing and best I can do is constantly wipe any crumb from counters – a disinfectant spray helps destroy their trails but sooner or later they are back. At least they are teeny tiny.

  8. Interesting angle Paul. Btw, I believe in our ‘western’ culture we concern ourselves with consuming protein too much. It seems to be a myth. There are vegans running ultra marathons.
    Lovely translation of that verse from the Gita…

  9. Wow, that was quite the educational read. Very good I must say. You tied everything together perfectly.
    Luckily here in Western NY I personally do not have an ant issue, I have a Centipede problem. Those long hairy bodies with so many darn legs. Ewe, I get creeped out just thinking of them. They suddenly appear, out of nowhere. I wonder where the giant one I found last week had been lurking before I spotted it on the wall? I will tell you he made quite the ” chunk ” noise going into the vacuum……I must be going to hell.

  10. Its amazing .. your story about the ants and water for every year about this time we too have an influx of ants in our house. It doesn’t help to have an indoor garden for they come traipsing out of it and into some of the rooms and they generally are a royal pain the neck.

  11. I thought the headline on Freshly Pressed was, “Feeling ARTSY”. After clicking on the story I started reading about Ants! I immediately stated feeling antsy and I could not continue….BTW, when you feel ARTSY, please visit Cardtales By the Lioness!!!!

    LOL.

  12. Nice essay. I am okay with ants as far as they don’t bite. I wouldn’t wanna live a life of an ascetic just so that I don’t have another life like that. It just doesn’t make sense.
    A quick non-sequitur: I love the font you are using. What is it called? It really makes the writing pop.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    • Hello Helen,
      Thanks for asking, and of course feel free to implement whatever tips I may have been able to suggest. We would only request that, in doing so, you credit our blog,”Two Old Liberals” whenever possible, as would usually and ordinarily be considered reasonable. Thank you again for checking with us, and all the best with your blog.
      Paul

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