Thursday, November 11, 2010

Consider the ant....a Jainist perspective.

One of my earliest memories is from Birchwood St in Troy, Michigan, playing outside with my friends from the neighborhood. Sounds like the beginning of a good memory doesn't it? No, this one has haunted me for over 30 years, we would search through the tall grass growing in the ditch near the road to find frogs. It started as a way to scare one another with stories of hands and arms covered with warts but eventually devolved into a game akin to skipping rocks, we had no pond, so the sidewalk was our surface of choice and the captured frog became the stand in for a smooth stone. Gleefully, my friends would whip the frogs sidearm across the pavement to see how many times they could make it bounce. I think this may be the earliest memory that points to the hippie freak I would become because I found no glee in this activity, in fact I remember trying not to cry as I looked down at the stains on the sidewalk the next day! We were all somewhere between 7-10 yrs old, how had we already learned that one form of life was superior to another and that we, as the superior lifeform were entitled to do with the lesser as we pleased? A little older, I conformed and participated in the great fun that came from exercising our rights as the top of the food chain and stepped on as many ants as I could on my way to school. Of course I avoided the cracks in the pavement, stepping on those was clearly immoral!! I never completely got rid of the voice in my heart that said, why? what did the ant do wrong? why shouldn't he or she be allowed to live? but I learned to ignore it so that no one would think I was a sissy. Now at age 45, I still have conflict with this question of life's value. My thoughts are probably even more outside the norm today. I ask questions like these, "Why do I have any more right to exist in this kitchen than this living, breathing cockroach?" and "If I end the life of this fly, am I really pro-life?"

Recently I discovered a group even weirder than I, the "Jain." I hope I do not misrepresent their beliefs as I am no expert, but this how I understand them. Do no harm, strive to live in harmony with the rest of life on this planet. I have learned there are no "absolute rules." While they believe that eating root plants like potatoes and carrots is to be avoided because it ends the life of that plant, it is not an offense that carries a punishment. They strive to do as little harm to other life as possible, some cover their mouths with a vail so as to protect the tiny living organisms in the air that would die if unknowingly inhaled.

So what of me as a Christian and the ant, the frog, the roach? Like the Jain, I am not making a moral judgement or pronouncing a new rule, just suggesting as Solomon did that we consider them. In Proverbs 6:6, he goes on to call the ant a she..not an it! and then to speak of her attributes from which we can learn.  If we can learn from her, why can't we live with her??

1 comment:

  1. Much like with politics, I always wonder why most people only take the one or two most popular religious choices as serious ones.

    A well thought-out post; I look forward to more.