In a rain soaked walk through the woods one Sunday afternoon, I encountered the tiniest of cocoons dangling from a branch. The thought occurred that there is no insignificant life. What if all the divisions you and I placed between life were just artificial screens that prevented life from getting to experience itself? And what if all these classifications just stood in the way of a form of ecstasy? What if there were no order of difficulties in things? If it was just as easy to solve a grave problem as a simple one? In dreams, and in magic, these beliefs are common. In both magic and dreams, it’s just as easy to do one thing as it is to do another. Yes, what if this life, this dangling nascent form twisting with drops of rain like beads of glass along its spider threads, is just as important as all other life? Within classes of life, we believe that. It’s just as bad to kill a poor man as the President. But between classes we make these artificial distinctions. It would be unpunishable to snuff out this chrysalis. But what if, in effect, killing one species had the same effect as killing another? In dreams, it doesn’t matter whether you kill a baby or a bug. The consequences are both the same.
I trammeled in mud while mosquitoes and spiders’ webs pestered me, but these were part of the package out here, as was the alone-ness. I became afraid of stepping on and killing plants. I became a temporary Jainist. The Jainists, a religion of India, related to Buddhism, revere animal life and practice nonviolence to the length of wearing veils over their mouths to avoid inhaling an insect. Some adherents carry brushes to sweep their paths free of life forms so as to save them from being squashed. But maybe the life out here was tough enough to make it. I could leave my brush at home.
Still, all life must be sacred or none is. And who draws the boundaries between what is alive and what is not? Who determines, but the Great God, the Great Classifier, called the human. What if all our laws are arbitrary? What if all our ideas of sin are mistaken? What if, when harboring a grudge, we create effects which we do not know? What if a negative thought has consequences as real as breaking someone’s jaw does? The Jainists believe that the actions of the mind and tongue as well as the body create a subtle karma, an infra-atomic flow of particles, which become the cause of human bondage. What if they were onto something?
And what if, in breaking some human law, such as theft or the speed limit, the affects are no greater than the affects of a dream? What if my conception of violence needs to expand to include violent thoughts and ideas? And what if my concept of law and rules needs to contract? So that I don’t think I’m good just because I’m law abiding, or deserving of punishment because I ran afoul of a human precept. Maybe I’ve had it all backwards. Avoid the ant in my path, but park in the NO PARKING ZONE. That is my new commandment unto me.
© 2015 by Michael C. Just