Sunday, February 6, 2011


Mama Holmes was in town this weekend, and we went for a long drive to a state park. Upon returning, my windscreen was totally filthy, in the way that no amount of wipers and spray can seem to put any dent in. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, however, and for some reason, one always feels internally convinced by the logic, 'sure, it did nothing the last 5 times I used the spray and wipers button, but maybe it's loosened it up for try number 6!'. Which it never has, of course, and eventually it became obvious that I'd need to clean it properly at a petrol station.

I filled up the car and began wiping. I was re-doing one section and feeling mildly peeved at the whole thing, when I was struck by the thought that every mark on my windscreen was due to some insect that got splattered on my drive. It made me think of the scene like that from the start of one of the Men in Black movies - you're a bug, flying around, going from flower to flower, and then one day for no reason at all you get squashed by a car travelling at you at 60 miles an hour, resulting in instant death. The car bore you no malice, of course - the driver was travelling some place for some purpose that wouldn't mean anything to you, even if you were able to comprehend it.

And in the face of this catastrophe, in response to this microcosm of the tragedy of the universe that is writ large across all of our fates, what response does your senseless death engender in the mind of the driver? What is the reaction of this representative of the highest intellectually developed and most morally sympathetic species on the planet?

Irritation that he will have to spend an extra 5 seconds cleaning your remains from his car.

It is difficult to bear too much of the world. If one descends too far down the rabbit-hole of wondering about the negative effects of all one's actions, it becomes impossible to live a life. One would become a naked ascetic, eating only the fruit that fell from trees, and obsessed about whether he stepped on any ants today by accident.

And yet...

Suffice to say, I felt very ashamed.

It may be impossible to avoid harming other creatures, but at least compassion is the debt we can owe to the world.

I'm sorry I ran you over, little insects. May you have gone to a better place.

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