I Won’t Kill Jake

Jake the beetle

Meet Jake. Jake is a black-and-beige beetle I found in my bathroom garbage pail about a week ago. He seems in no hurry to leave. I don’t know what he’s been up to all week, but for now he’s residing in the maze of tissues and toilet paper rolls in my little white bucket.

For some reason, I would have killed him for this a few years ago. I always figured bugs in the house had to be executed for their trespassing. This is just what people do, but I don’t know if there’s really a good reason for it. So I’ll let him hang out in there.

I suppose the usual pretense for these killings is that bugs represent filth and disease, and it’s just not safe to let them live with us. Well, in spite of my greatest fears, Jake has never once given me a disease, or crawled in my mouth while I was sleeping. To my knowledge he has not laid eggs in my brain. He has not interfered in my life in any way.

In fact, compared to any dogs, cats or people I’ve roomed with, he’s been an outstanding guest. He doesn’t make any noise, doesn’t borrow my things, doesn’t shed on the upholstery or play bad electronic music. He doesn’t eat very much, apparently satisfied with whatever scraps remain on my spent strands of dental floss.  

He never asks me to drive him anywhere or make him breakfast. He doesn’t smoke, swear around children, use all the toilet paper, or leave the gas tank empty. He asks for so little, I can’t imagine putting him to death just because I might be very slightly more at ease if he wasn’t staying with me.

I guess bugs make people uncomfortable, and that’s reason enough to crush their little bodies with a Kleenex. Luckily, we human beings are too big for most animals to crush us on a whim like that, even if we do make them very nervous.

I know, it’s just a bug. From six feet up he looks like a self-propelled piece of lint. Useless, unsophisticated, unworthy. No reason to let it live.

But these are all human perspectives. If I was a lot closer, I might see how elegant and refined his little legs and carapace are. If I was a lot smaller, I might be terrified. I would certainly have more respect for him.

Here is the head and upper body of a shield bug. Notice how much detail exists even at this level.

insectcloseup

If we could see, at a casual glance, just how intricate and sophisticated these tiny animals really are, we might not roll up our newspapers so quickly. It is hard to appreciate their elegance when you’re watching them scurry, from a broom’s-length away, into the gap between the fridge and the cupboard. But it’s there.

I like that I’m a homo sapien. If before our births we all had to pick, out of some cosmic hat, what species we’d be, I think homo sapien might just be the best one. But obviously it isn’t the only one. The vast majority of living things (and I mean 99.999999% vast) are not human. But they’re just as alive, and just as interested in staying that way.

Whatever creature you drew in the lottery of all lotteries, that body that would have to be your carriage and toolkit throughout whatever span of life you’re lucky enough to muster with it. I don’t know if Jake got a bum deal in life, or if I just don’t have the necessary perspective to understand how great it is to be a garbage-pail beetle, but I just can’t bring myself to destroy the little body he was given just because I got dealt a superior hand.

In any case, Jake is just trying to make it in this world, same as me, only he has different tools at his disposal. He scurries and eats toilet paper, I drive a Honda and eat avocados. He runs away when someone tries to photograph him, so do I. Jake and I have the same purpose, only different styles.

To just unceremoniously whack this bug, as common as it is among our kind, would be disrespectful to whatever forces put him here in the form he’s in. Whether it was God or just the divine natural artistry of evolution, killing Jake would be a senseless act of vandalism against some of the most elaborate and purposeful work ever done.

No, I won’t do it. Not without a better reason. If he were to suck my blood, like some of the more delinquent bugs around here, then maybe he’d be picking a fight he couldn’t win. But he hasn’t, and probably won’t. He probably doesn’t even have the capability of making trouble for me at all, beyond triggering my own pathetic human insecurity about having an insect in my house.

If I really don’t want him there, I can easily pick him up and toss him out on the patio. Only a shameful combination of laziness and squeamishness would have me kill him instead.

So, we have peace. Not that any living thing in this apartment — except maybe the insecure primate — could possibly want it any other way.

R

Photo by Kaibara87

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Char August 3, 2009 at 3:59 am

i once read that if we care not for the little things we will have difficulty caring for that which we think worth so much more…

…methinks in times of old that fairies, pixies and elves etc were ways of putting a “human face” to bugs so that we would treat them with respect~ perceptively we relate to better to things with faces…

i live in the tropics and refuse to screen my house~ it is heartwarming to have a giant moth or dancing butterflies travel through the home, huge huntsmen stalking cockroaches, a swarm of native bees alight in one’s hair at the front door, and four-o’clock moth pupae do their yoga stands in the tree by the letter box; it is always a blessing to have a leaf hopper choose ones tapping fingers on the keyboard as a place to rest…

i once read a description of a bug’s life by a Tibetan monk, he said that we are like mountains or statues standing still to them and it takes them an age to pass us…

and if a bug won’t eat it then neither will I :-)

.

Lisis August 3, 2009 at 5:12 am

David, it is evident that Jake has, in fact, laid eggs in your brain and his babies have now convinced you that his is the superior race. He has hijacked your brain in order to make you his servant. Don’t you see? HE now lives in your apartment, he has commandeered it, making YOU his butler. Should’a taken him out when you had the chance. ;)

No, really, I’m proud of you for cultivating your compassion on such a primal level. I’m also fairly certain I’ll never be your house guest, as I don’t like the odds of being put to death for using the last of the toilet paper!
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..Adventure: Is Your Comfort Zone Holding You Back? =-.

David August 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Just testing the nested comments feature in WordPress. It didn’t seem to be working but maybe it was just the brain eggs distorting things.

David August 3, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Well what do ya know…

Jay Schryer August 3, 2009 at 6:29 am

Dammit! Now it’s LISIS saying everything I wanted to say in a comment. That’s it. I’m just gonna stop sleeping.

I never kill bugs, unless my daughter is here and she starts freaking out. I pick them up, and deposit them safely outside. Unless of, course, they jump on me like some crazy praying mantis, and then I thump them out into the yard.

I think it’s awesome that you have such a great house guest, and that you are such a loving and compassionate host. Who knows? This could be the start of something really beautiful }:)
.-= Jay Schryer´s last blog ..One Love (My guest post on Southern Goddess) =-.

Kaushik August 3, 2009 at 9:13 am

Jake sounds wonderful. He knows how to be. As homo sapiens, it seems it takes us a half a life time to learn that.

Great post, thanks!
.-= Kaushik´s last blog ..Gentle Honesty =-.

John August 3, 2009 at 9:36 am

I used to love bugs too… until I got malaria while vacationing in Nigeria. Since then I’ve been wary towards our much smaller neighbors. Though I never had a problem with beetles (I have no beef with Jake or his relatives) any insect that has fur and can fly for substantial periods of time, freak me out (I mean flies, bees, wasps).

I’ll always have sort of a soft spot for insects, because not all of them are pests. They’re just misunderstood.
.-= John´s last blog ..Haven’t You Heard? It’s Good to Fail =-.

suzen August 3, 2009 at 9:48 am

I love Lisis’s comments – too funny! My past is littered with mass exterminations of which I hope I can be forgiven due to blatant ignorance and the outrageous need to control!
.-= suzen´s last blog ..The Power of the Circle =-.

David August 3, 2009 at 9:50 am

Char – I love the Buddhist Monk’s view of a bug’s life. We are probably significant parts of their landscape. I wonder what Jake thinks when my gigantic head peers over the edge of the white canyon where he lives.

Lisis – I suppose that’s possible.

Jay – No, no, it’s not like that. Jake and I are just acquaintances. That’s as far as it goes. I just don’t see him like that. :)

Kaushik – It sure does. Humans forget how to be animals sometimes. Animals never do.

John – Here we have a problem with mosquitoes in the summer, so I’m not as patient with them. I draw the line at blood-sucking or disease-spewing.

Suzen – Mine too. part of being human is that we can change at any time.

Dayne | TheHappySelf.com August 3, 2009 at 10:04 am

So interesting you wrote an article on something so simple as this. I actually thought these exact type of things the past year when I was going to squash a bug on my floor once. I thought, “Why should I kill it? It has never harmed me.” When I started to think that, I felt guilty for even wanting to kill it. Call me crazy, but I’m serious.

What a great post. It is one of those posts where you are writing what many may be thinking, but to afraid to say. Thanks!

Dayne
.-= Dayne | TheHappySelf.com´s last blog ..How to Free Yourself From The Inside Out =-.

Lori August 3, 2009 at 11:24 am

I know what you’re saying about sparing the insects. I always just let them be or try to escort them outdoors theses days.

I think it backfired a few days ago, though, I tried to escort a cute little spider outdoors and he (or she) got way from me! I think she could smell my fear!

She ran into a crevice in the wall and I woke up yesterday morning with two spider bites. I swear I was only trying to usher her to freedom. Now what? Just let her come back and taunt me? Who’s the fool now?
(ha ha)

I enjoyed this, David. Have a great week!
.-= Lori´s last blog ..Writing Right =-.

David August 3, 2009 at 11:32 am

Dayne – So I’m not alone! Good to hear. Maybe Jake didn’t lay eggs in my brain after all.

Lori – Well it could have been her misbehaved sons that bit you, you can’t know for sure:) As I was writing that article, I found a little brown spider sprinting down my arm. I tried to toss it outside but it jumped onto the carpet and disappeared. Spiders I’m a little less comfortable with because they are so fast and they have a habit of littering..

Nadia - Happy Lotus August 3, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Hi David,

When I began to study Buddhism, my view of bugs and spiders totally changed. My non-spiritual friends tease me that whenever they want to squash a bug, I stop them and pick it up and move it elsewhere. When you have been trained as much as I have on reincarnation, karma and compassion…it changes how you handle such situations. I think being a vegetarian too has an impact.

In India, there are numerous stories that people tell about how someone did something bad and they came back as an animal. That is why, over there, animals are treated so well. No such thing as roadkill which unfortunately is so rampant here in the West!
.-= Nadia – Happy Lotus´s last blog ..Jewel, Dreams, Faith & Me: My Progress Report =-.

David August 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

My mother recently spent a week at a mindfulness/yoga retreat on the west coast. She said that it was a very peaceful place, and everyone was very centered and calm. during one of her sessions, a bee flew in. She said that it was such a different environment, to know that nobody there was going to jump up and swat the bee.

zak August 4, 2009 at 10:05 am

when my mind gets cluttered and i lose my perspective i go lay in the grass in the backyard, soon i notice ants and bees, little tiny no name bugs going about their business or just hanging out. soon i forgot the clutter and have a fresh perspective. thank you for your post.

David August 4, 2009 at 10:08 am

Lying in the grass is so great. You can look at any patch of grass anywhere and see no name bugs, without fail. There’s always some action going on. Thanks for your comment.

Brenda August 4, 2009 at 7:23 pm

I’d like to read your post about the two-inch, black, flying tree roach that moved in, fast as a torpedo and headed straight for your hair. My daughter used to throw her tennis shoes at them while my son yelled, “No, don’t kill it!” He would grab one of those clear plastic towers that CDs come in, place it over the thing, slide a piece of printer paper underneath it, and dump the little buddy outside. Thank god for technology.
.-= Brenda´s last blog ..Simple Signs =-.

David August 4, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Yikes, I don’t get bugs like that up here, I don’t think I’d let it room with me.

Those CD towers are perfect bug catchers. Who said we’re destroying nature with our papers and plastics?

Angelika August 5, 2009 at 5:01 am

aloha David,
thank you for your blog and your awesome and inspiring thoughts.
The only bugs I did not like in the house while living in Georgia/USA
were the cockroaches. Being German and not used to them they just freaked me out. Back in Germany and living in a newly constructed home on the top/4th floor I do get some little spiders – whenever I vacuum they will scurry away and hide underneath furniture – and I am happy they are around and I smile whenever I see them. Here I only trap fruitflies with a homemade fruitfly-trap.
I consider respect for nature – fauna and flora – as vital for a harmonious life of me, homo sapiens.

David August 5, 2009 at 7:11 am

Cockroaches are pretty gross-looking. We don’t have them up here, but I’d definitely send them packing I think. Just expulsion, though, not execution.

Karlil @ PDPro August 5, 2009 at 6:04 am

I am surprised someone actually wrote on stuff so insignificant yet so true.

I used kill every bugs that comes in my way. However, i have repent since. although these are small creatures, and i am most probably going to get away with killing them, there is life in there.

I seriously enjoyed reading this post, and i can only hope more people read it.
.-= Karlil @ PDPro´s last blog ..How to improve your sense of humor with 5 easy steps =-.

David August 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

Thanks Karlil. You’re right, there is life in there. No less alive than us, just smaller.

Mandy August 5, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Oh my, this story made me smile! I feel exactly same way about those tiny creatures. I felt sad when I was forced to get rid of ants that we got inside our living room. I had once friend lived by herself and felt so lonely sometimes, that she liked those bugs coming in..at least she was not alone! Great post!
.-= Mandy´s last blog ..Can’t Write – Kick out That Attitude! =-.

David August 7, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Your comment made me smile. Thanks Mandy.

Nicole August 7, 2009 at 12:04 pm

This 3 yr old once called out b.c there was a spider. I told I don’t kill bugs, especially spiders. I asked her what she thought she should do.

“Let’s just leave it alone.”

I let her have extra ice cream after that comment. :)
.-= Nicole´s last blog ..14 things oral sex taught me about blogging =-.

David August 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Great answer. Ice cream builds compassion.

Matthew May 23, 2011 at 3:43 am

“If he were to suck my blood, like some of the more delinquent bugs around here, then maybe he’d be picking a fight he couldn’t win.”
Even bugs that suck blood are just trying to make-it. The cosmic lottery’s forcing them to suck blood or to die, and it’s not like they have the mental capacity to make a sound moral judgement about the matter, either. Killing a bug that tries to suck your blood isn’t really all that morally superior to killing ones that don’t – you’re just killing them for what they are. Not that I wouldn’t kill any bugs.

David May 23, 2011 at 7:49 am

That’s true. We do all have to draw the line somewhere, and it’s going to be arbitrary. I know it’s not the mosquito’s fault. But I would argue that an insect biting you or sucking your blood is giving you a different set of incentives for killing it than one that’s just crawling around in the garbage.

Matthew May 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Yes, that’s what I think also. :) It’s nice to believe that everyone has a right to life, but in practice it doesn’t work very well.

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