Friday, September 11, 2015

The Butterfly and the Fly in the Sink

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

The Butterfly

by Nikos Kazantzakis
I remember one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the back of a tree just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened; the butterfly started slowly crawling out, and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath, in vain.

It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the external rhythm.

Personal Thought

I’d read the above piece some time ago. My thought was that it was a very good lesson and one that I would take with me for the rest of my life. It’s something I’ll never do, I had thought to myself…

The Fly in the Sink

I was standing at the bathroom sink one night when I noticed a very small and fragile fly on the side of the sink. It appeared to be stuck in a small water droplet. I thought: He’s in danger. I must get him out before he dies.

I ripped off a square of toilet paper and gently touched the edge of it to the side of the water droplet. The water absorbed immediately, and the fly flew off the side of the sink and began hopping around on my hand. Proud that I had done a good deed, I lowered my hand to the countertop. The fly hopped off only to land in another water droplet.

Dang, I thought, and placed the edge of the toilet paper against this new droplet. But although the water had been absorbed, things were different this time. The fly’s body and wings had been crippled. It was still alive, but its movements were minimal; a struggle.

I momentarily debated what to do about the fly. On one hand, I avoid deliberately taking the life of any creature, no matter how small or large. I’ve come to have a deep respect for the wonder, intelligence, and purpose that other creatures carry. On the other hand, I’d just interfered with the life of another being; one that I’d “saved” only to inadvertently cripple. Uncertain of what to do, I took a shower as I’d initially intended. When I finished, the fly was still writhing around in same small area of counter space. It was still alive when I’d left the bathroom.

Arrogance, Ignorance, and Interference

It had never occurred to me that perhaps the fly was fine just the way I’d originally found it. Maybe within an hour or two the original water droplet would have dried and the fly would have remained among the living. I don’t know. In my almighty human arrogance, my immediate assumption was that the fly would die otherwise; that it was already in danger when I’d first seen it.

But perhaps the fly was bathing or drinking—perhaps even basking in a water droplet as humans do in the ocean. Perhaps the fly was only in danger because I interfered; because in my ignorant compassion I crafted a fairytale drama about the situation of another life—a life that I knew little if anything about and a drama story that led me to destroy rather than create.

Are You Serious!?

Some may think my story is a bit on the humorously absurd side of things. “John, it’s a fly for God’s sake!”

Such individuals are more right than they know. Quite literally, it is for God’s sake: it is life.

This life is something that many of us have great difficulty comprehending. Our culture teaches that any existence beyond our own is of minimal value (heck, sometimes ours included). We’ve learned such a deep-seated fear of death, a death that most of us haven’t the foggiest clue about, that we seek to destroy everything in our path that appears suggestive of death’s potential discomfort.

We step on the critters out on the sidewalk. We spray deadly chemicals all over the insects on the plants in our garden. We smash harmless bugs on the walls and floors of our houses. We clap winged insects between our hands. And this is only our dealings with the smallest, most helpless of creatures.

Occasionally when people kill insects which pose absolutely no threat to them I’ll ask something like: “How would you feel if a foot came down from the sky and stepped on you?”

“Smashing,” they tell me. No they don’t. I just made that up for a bit of comic relief. But they do look at me like I’m an idiot, maybe going so far as to actually say just that.

Chalk it up to human arrogance, I suppose. Such behavior doesn’t make sense to me anymore, but I guess if killing the defenseless critters of the world is what some must yet do, then so be it. I don’t agree with it, but I can respect it because I wore those shoes once, too. I’m as guilty as the next guy.

But now I know better. And through my clearer perception I’ve come to realize something: I’ve ended the lives of countless other beings for their committing no greater atrocity than trying to survive peacefully…and inadvertently provoking the fear of death within my own being that I was too afraid to face directly.

Note: This text is a modified version of a post originally published on 7/29/12 to former personal blog “Without a Story.”

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