Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I had a window open at my office yesterday to take advantage of the nice weather. Soon I noticed a fly at the window screen, trying to find a way out. I knew that in a few minutes I was going to close the window, trapping it between the glass and screen, which would surely mean its death.

I'm not an absolutist in my respect for sentient beings. I do, after all, pay for quarterly pest control knowing full well that they use more than a friendly suggestion to keep the bugs away. If I see a cockroach I'm more likely to kill it than try to set it free, but I try to do a favor to flies and spiders when I can.

So I told the fly what I was about to do. I began this practice of talking to animals after reading Derrick Jensen's "A Language Older Than Words" a few years ago. When we moved from our former house (memorialized in "Drawing On The Walls"), I walked around the property announcing to the woodland critters that bulldozers would soon be obliterating everything in their path and to get out while the getting was good. Whether "the Other" hears my message isn't my responsibility, but announcing my intention most certainly is.

I found a plastic cup with the intention of trapping the fly so that I could carry him outside, since the screen could not be removed. However, he obviously couldn't understand my benevolent intentions and evaded my pitifully slow human efforts (it didn't help that Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" suddenly popped out of the recesses of my murky synapses to remind me that: "Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything." I told him to wax off.)

Like a typical American I used brute force to make up for what I couldn't accomplish by finesse. I began bringing the cup to the screen in a more random and jerky manner in order to try to anticipate the fly's movements. By this time I'm basically yelling "I'm trying to help you, goddam it!" Finally I succeeded..... bringing the cup down squarely on one of his wings, pulling it partly off of his body in the process. He fell back into the cup which I then covered with my other hand. I quickly walked outside and released him, only to see him plummet to the ground with one poor wing fluttering in a noble attempt to stay aloft.

I immediately assumed a philosophical attitude about it, somewhere along the lines of "oh well, I did my best, my intention was good, you can't win them all," etc. I realized later that what I should have done (but didn't) was crush him quickly with my foot to end his misery.

I can't seem to catch the many metaphoric implications flying around without suffering similar damage upon them as well. They will just have to batter inside of me. I now have much greater empathy for the cup's role in all this.

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