OMG! What Would Albert Schweitzer Have Said?

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This is not my victim.

Last night, I committed premeditated Murder One.

Specifically, it was beetlecide. Doing so was not my first preference. If a nearby window had been open, I would happily have deposited the little being where it belonged. That is my normal modus operandi.

Albert Schweitzer had an influence. Schweitzer, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life,” reportedly believed that

“The ethical person goes out of his way to avoid injuring anything that is living; he doesn’t tear leaves from trees or step on insects…”

But this particular insect was wending its way along the parameters of a plastic bag to the left of my bedroom bureau—where I keep an untidy, in fact helter-skelterly overflowing mountain of such stuff to recycle as liners in our wastebaskets.

The fact that it (the beetle) was in an area so close to my bed raised the stakes vis-a-vis its imminent fate. Bedbugs would have been terrible, but bed beetle was not, to my mind, much better.

So while the beetle clung to the edge of the plastic bag, I carried it into the bathroom, where I committed it to an untimely watery death. At least I think I did. But who knows?

Lacking an entomology background, I couldn’t do an adequate I.D. It might be (present tense) a water beetle, in which case it could be gleefully swirling in the toilet eddies, soon to reascend—and possibly head straight toward my bed. It might even, next time, be accompanied by some compadres. So many tiny legs, marching in unison…

Still, I felt hypocritical. Last week, my post quoted the great spiritual leader Ram Dass about loving those one protests against as much as one loves oneself. Perhaps the beetle was lovingly calling my attention to those dreadful plastic bags—showing me that they had no place in my home—even if reused:

“Remember the post you wrote about climate change recently, Annie? Do you realize what damage you’re doing with all that plastic?”

(Wise emissaries show up in odd forms sometimes, don’t you think?)

And what did I do? I did not return its love. I did not even think of its possible message until it was too late. Instead, I used that pernicious plastic bag to transport it to what at best was a locale it hadn’t chosen to visit at that time. 

Where was the lovingkindness that’s so central to my mindfulness experience? I take it very seriously. And yet, without a backward glance, I had flushed it down the toilet. (To my regret, the ambiguous “it” in the previous sentence is both literal and metaphorical.)

Perhaps Ram Dass will forgive me? But I don’t think Albert Schweitzer would. As to my Inner Critic, the voice in one’s head that we imperfect mindfulness meditators know we must accommodate and not fight against or dwell upon—well, let’s just say we’re negotiating.

Alas, I just looked up a photo of a water beetle. No resemblance. Hence, my act was irretrievable. So the least I can do is create a memorial.

Haiku for a Dead Beetle

Merely existing
Luminescence and strangeness
Undeserving end

Annie

33 thoughts on “OMG! What Would Albert Schweitzer Have Said?

  1. That looks like a Japanese Beetle. Don’t you remember when we were kids we would pick them frim the bushes and put them in jars? It would take a few days for them to die. They ate through everything they were little monsters. Don’t feel so bad. My new book for kids is called Tick Tock spider clock and other creepy crawly Tales makes bugs fun. There are more than 200 million insects for every human being on the planet. So don’t lose any sleep over this. My book is on Amazon for only 6 99. Anybody who likes Bugs, and even if you don’t, go get a copy.

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    1. You probably can’t read the caption, which says: “This is not my victim.” No, I don’t remember trapping beetles in jars; I do remember catching fireflies, but we always let them go.
      Good luck with your book(s)!

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  2. Yikes, that’s a tricky situation and beetles are not my strong suit. All insects give me the creeps and beetles, with the stick legs and body armour, can make me panic. I find killing them is impossible as I can’t stomach the thought of the almighty ‘squish’ factor, but transferring onto cardboard to carry outside isn’t much more tolerable a thought because it means getting closer to them and managing them possible scurrying around or off the card pretty quickly. I don’t want to kill any living thing, but sometimes I do as I’m not a saint and the fear of moths or spiders gets the better of me, so a book may get thrown in their direction or a piece of tissue paper and a slipper will come down on them. I’m not sure whether that kind of end is better or worse than a watery fate. I do feel bad afterwards, as you do. I think that makes us good people, who sometimes do not so good things but not with any malice in our hearts. I love your haiku, that’s such a sweet way to envelope the deed and send little beetle on his way. An ‘undeserving end’, that’s the perfect way to put it.
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great response, Caz! “Stick legs and body armour ” indeed! Yes, we seem to be kindred spirits in this regard. I’m glad you liked my haiku—a memorial seemed the least I could do…
      Best to you,
      Annie xx

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  3. I personally like 99.9% of insects. I don’t go out of my way to squash them. The one exception is the yellow jacketed wasp. I am allergic to them and have had one life threatening incident and a couple of minor scares. So my survival instinct kicks in and I have a fly swatter in every part of the house that I inhabit. Both inside and out. If I see one I show no mercy and have even been known to stalk a wasp for hours hunting it’ down to its lair. All this despite practicing AHIMSA in the eighties. Life changes us. Have no regrets about the beetle Annie. Sleep the untroubled sleep of the righteous, trusting that you did what you had to do.

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      1. Forgive me, because I realize this is no laughing matter, but your description of your lengthy hunt, swatter held high, chasing that wasp to its lair was slightly reminiscent of Monty Python or Peter Sellers. However, if you prefer George and the dragon, that’s fine with me. Just stay safe, Len.

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  4. If you need someone to testify at your murder trial about what a good person you are, feel free to call on me. Regarding the plastic bags, it makes excellent sense to save them because garbage has to go in something. If you use the bags you toted home from the grocery store, you can avoid purchasing boxes of garbage bags.

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    1. That’s very kind of you, Gail. I’ll definitely keep you in mind.
      The thing about the plastic bags is that I carry with me at all times a little nylon zippered bag that ingeniously unzips into a bigger bag so that I can avoid the plastic bags altogether. However, I invariably forget about it until the filled plastic bags have been handed to me. But you’re right: then what would I use to line our wastebaskets? Ah, life is so complicated!

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  5. I don’t know what community you live in, but consider. In many places it is not only acceptable, but in fact, encouraged, that one protect one’s abode from all forms of intruders. Did you feel threatened? Was the intruder uninvited? Did the intruder identify itself properly? Setting aside any moral or ethical dilemmas, it seems to me that your actions were not only merited and legal but perhaps wise in the dangerous age in which we live. “Flush first and ask questions later” is my motto. And that also holds for insects.

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    1. “Flush first and ask questions later…” Wow! Never thought of that guiding principle. But perhaps you’re right: with climate change bringing all sorts of dislocations, I don’t really know how much damage my “intruder” might have wreaked. Maybe it was one of those guys from the South that are destroying the Pine Barrens in NJ and lost its way. Now that I think about it, I may not have had a bureau at all by morning… Thanks, Joseph!

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  6. Sigh. What I can tell you, Annie, is that we do our best to live kind, ethical lives — especially you, who knows how to ask the questions, go in search of various (plural) answers, and emerge with a coherent, flexible point of view, that you then craft into beautiful paragraphs to inspire and/or engage others. So, give yourself a break, my dear. Already, yours is a standard far and above the less informed.
    PS I’ve had experience with bedbugs (hotel), and the most mercy I would show in that instance again is to flee the scene. But if I could have burned the mattress, that might have been a kindness to the next guest.

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    1. You are so very kind, dear Denise.

      An encounter with bedbugs would un-Schweitzer me in a minute. Perhaps with regard to that poor beetle, the operative concept is that the demise of one beetle is worthy of my sympathy/regret, but an infestation would sorely test my lovingkindness…

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  7. Next thing you know a beetle smoking a cigar and wearing a raincoat will show up at your door and say, “I’m sorry to bother you but I got this here problem… this beetle has disappeared and the last place he was seen was next to the plastic bag in your bedroom… how much do you pay for a plastic bag like that by the way… just the other day I was saying to my wife… we should have a plastic bag next to our bed…Have you seen this beetle? …. (shows photo) No. Okay, sorry to bother you… Oh, just one more thing, Ma’am… just one more thing… I notice you have a toilet in your bathroom… it seems to have a lot of water in it… a lot of water perhaps to drown my beetle friend I just showed a photo of… No… okay, sorry to bother you… oh just one more thing , Ma’am… just one more thing…”

    The cigar smoking and raincoat wearing beetle detective goes through this procedure dozens of times… it looks like he’s about to leave and then he comes back to say, “Just one more thing, Ma’am… just one more thing…”

    After dozens of times like this, you finally break down and confess to the murder saying how you threw the poor beetle down the toilet and flushed it.

    And then Lt. Columbeetle will have solved The Case of The Drowned Beetle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that’s a relief, Christopher! In other words, my overt, detailed, and signed confession is safe in the WordPress world for now—unless you’re demonstrating severe speciesism in assuming no beetles are reading our dialogue at this time. But I shall be on the lookout for a cigar-chomping, raincoat-wearing teensy interrogator and will have my alibi ready.
      And I shall look for Lt. Columbeetle to reappear amidst the likes of the octopus Kraken, Michelangelo the psychic lobster, and Harvey Wallbanger, the giant invisible (sometimes) rabbit—all in the unfolding sagas that tumble from the fertile mind of my friend Dracul Van Helsing.

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      1. Thanks, Annie. 🙂

        Did you ever watch the Lt. Columbo made for TV movies that appeared on TV back in the 1970s and 1980s and starred actor Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo?

        I really loved that series.

        Of course if you didn’t watch Columbo, that comment of mine no doubt strikes you as very bizarre. 😂

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  8. Hehe, you may be overthinking it a bit. I save when I can and kill when I have to. The karma evens out on the side of good, I think.
    If it’s any consolation, ethical constraints are a human construct. Really strict ethical constraints are an Albert Shweizer construct. It’s a luxury that we are even in a position to consider kindness toward bugs and trees and things.
    The haiku was very nice, a fitting elegy for the luckless creature.

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      1. I’m glad you sent that. It’s very thought-provoking. Your honesty is hard-won and refreshing. I am more on the squeamish side (though I am merciless to spiders in self-defense, having been bitten more than once.)
        We had a very sweet indoor cat that would raise a bemused eye when an occasional field mouse scampered past him. I don’t think I could kill an animal, but unlike you, I avoid plumbing the depths of my murderous instincts. I’m sure they’re there, locked inside my reptilian brain, where I hope to let them slither and sleep unperturbed.

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    1. I’m sure you’re right about the karma working out. I acknowledged my limitations to a couple of the other commenters. One had had bedbugs in a hotel—I told her that would un-Schweitzerize me immediately, and I realized the operative concept was that one beetle evoked my sadness and regret, but an infestation would sorely test my lovingkindness…

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      1. Haha, very true! Funny how a swarm is harder to love than a single bug. And a large bug is harder to kill than a small bug. And something with expressive eyebrows is harder to kill than a bug-eyed sea creature.

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  9. I left you a comment on that post, unaware that you were already enlightened concerning the nature of these incredible “aliens.” As you can see, I’m a total sucker for their charms…

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  10. A thought-provoking lunchtime read. Maybe partly because I have never second-guessed a similar burial at sea in my own home. In my area there has been a proliferation of “stink bugs” that come indoors to escape the cold weather. You can’t smash them or they smell bad. You can’t leave them alone (at least I can’t) because of a spousal refusal to share quarters with one so unwilling to help with chores. Tossing it outdoors in freezing weather would probably be no better. So, they catch a wave and swirl off into the . . . wherever those pipes go.

    I would have loved to have spent a month living with Albert Schweitzer. I’ll bet a dollar that his place was not overrun with mice and cockroaches.

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    1. Good grief: stink bugs! And untrainable/unhelpful ones at that! You have forced me to face the limits of my lovingkindness. But just a dollar bet re: Schweitzer? Are you hedging your bets? Perhaps the mice ate the cockroaches, and the cats, etc. And Schweitzer lived in a well-fed peaceable kingdom wherein nature reigned supreme and his hands were clean. Or perhaps not.

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