Monday, October 15, 2007

We Had to Kill It

At my brother's wedding, one of my nephews found a black widow spider on the wall of the house. The kids all gathered around, horrified and fascinated at the same time.

"I'm gonna kill it," my nephew announced.

"Yeah, kill it!" some of the other kids chimed in.

"Don't!" I urged him. "Haven't you ever heard the old saying? If you wish to live and thrive, let a spider run alive!"

The kids laughed at the poem.

"But it's dangerous!" replied my nephew.

"Not if you let it alone," I said.

"That's right," said Göran, "It's a living creature!"

That seemed to calm the spider blood lust. The kids gradually dispersed.

Later I returned to the section of the wall where the spider had been, and it was gone. "Where's the spider?" I asked my nephew.

"We had to kill it," he said.

I felt saddened that in the mental world of kids, there doesn't seem to be enough room in the world for humans and spiders. Is it human nature, instinct, or nurture, to squash things we just don't like?


Knight of Nothing said...

This is a great post. Some of the most ordinary events can stir up life's most difficult questions. There is no right answer to this question. I see the pure, innocent logic of the children's actions, but I also understand and support the higher ideal of the essential unity of life that your essay suggests.

J G-W said...

Yes, I thought about this post for a long time, actually. It did occur to me how quickly and sadly the wedding gathering might have ended had a young child been bitten.

All the same, I remember as a kid being involved in the "trial and execution" of an innocent moth. I was neither judge nor executioner. The instigator was a little girl a year or two older than me. She and a number of kids, after determining that it was guilty, literally stoned it to death. Where does that come from?

Knight of Nothing said...

WOW! What a story. That would really take some thought to untangle. Do the morality tales in the Bible and elsewhere galvanize a child's sense of bloody justice? Or does an evolutionary sense of survival cause us to act upon desires for binary, final solutions?

J G-W said...

Well, of course there's a rather important tale in the Bible in which would-be stone-casters are invited to drop their stones unless they are without sin. (And amazingly, nobody throws any stones.)

In fact, now I think about it... The only actual stories in the Bible that portray stoning portray it in a rather negative light. The only other story that readily comes to mind (besides the one I just mentioned in which Jesus prevents a stoning) is the martyrdom of St. Stephen. So it would take a rather twisted reading of the Bible, IMHO, to feel justified in killing an innocent creature based on "morality tales in the Bible."

Of course, you know something about my philosophy in regard to such things. I believe that human nature has been warped by worldly systems of power and control. The Powers That Be require violence, blood and vengeance in order to keep their systems in place, creating these kinds of cycles of fear and violence. Kids generally take cues from the big folks around them, in whose presence they generally feel powerless. It's our own sense of powerlessness that inspires fear and the host of related emotions that inspire silence in the face of evil, discrimination, and mob violence among other things.

It is the role of "true" religion to liberate us from that, by grounding us in mercy, love, and true being.