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.
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.
Photo by Kaibara87