Humans are swayed more by fear than by reverence.
Why is it that most humans appear to care more about animals when they’re alive than when they dead, if they care at all? How many times have we swerved out of the way of road kill to avoid running over a dead animal in the middle of the road for fear that the oozing carcass would mess our tires or smear a much broader intestinal display on the asphalt?
I’ve accidently run over my share of dead carcasses in my travels, and over the years have unfortunately hit a few live creatures who were crossing the road. I usually stopped, especially if I thought an animal was still alive, although I had no idea what to do if I was forced to put it out of its misery. I’ve only had to witness one or two animals to their death after I hit them. One was too many. To stand helplessly and watch an animal suffer to death is not an experience I cherish. Maybe that’s the reason some people don’t stop after they’ve hit an animal with their vehicle.
If we humans hold any reverence for life at all, it appears to me that the bigger the form of life the more the reverence. For example, why is squishing a spider with our foot less morally significant than shooting a coyote because it is hanging around the barn or shooting a burglar for entering our home. After all, even though a spider doesn’t have a heart, it does have a spirit; otherwise, it wouldn’t be alive. All living creatures great or small have a life force. Is our reverence to animals dependent on whether they have a heart or not, or how big they are? Life is life. Human life is no different in God’s eyes to animal life. All forms of life have a God-created spirit. But I didn’t always think this way.
The very first home that I owned was infested with spiders in the basement, not the big dozy daddy long legs, but the big black thick smart ones that are too fast to easily catch. Because of my intense fear of spiders, I couldn’t go to bed at night thinking that they were coming out of hiding and crawling all around my home. Because I usually have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, I decided to ‘kill two birds with one stone’. I would descend the basement steps cautiously with eyes roaming in every direction. It wouldn’t take long to see my first spider. In one nightly excursion to the basement, I would schmuck literally dozens of spiders crawling along the white styrofoam walls.
I’m ashamed to say that this routine went on for weeks if not months. One particular spider was so big that after I hit it with my well-stained schmucking board, it fell to the grey cement floor and crumbled to the size and form of a golf ball. I even took my glasses off when I did the deed because I was too afraid to witness the kill. If I found a spider during the daylight hours, I salvaged what little regard I had for living things by catching and releasing each critter into the wilds of my back yard by trapping it into a clear glass jar and holding it there with a white greeting card. After all, I did not want the creature to be out of my sight until it was well beyond the boundaries of my house. My respect for critters was conditional—love by day, kill by night. My fear of walking outside in the darkness of the night or getting a chill was more important than sparing a small creature’s life.
I’m not proud of the killing that went on in my basement, and I believe that I have created a lot of karma for myself for doing this. But my behaviour was in line with my spiritual consciousness at the time, or lack of it. I certainly could not do that again without feeling tremendous guilt. I would move to another house if it came to that, or get over my fear of having spiders around me.
One of my concerns about being here in Arizona is a substantial tarantula population. Right now they are hiding in the ground because it is still winter. But as soon as the rising air temperatures warm up the soil, these gigantic spiders will be out and about. At that time I question whether my fear will drive me back to the Canadian north earlier than later, or will I have overcome my fear of spiders enough to welcome a tarantula if it showed up at my RV door, or worse yet, if I found one asleep in my sneakers before I put them on in the morning? Time will tell. One thing for sure, I will not deliberately kill again.
On my way to Arizona last fall driving across the continental U.S. I noticed what seemed to be an unusual amount of road kill. Every mile or two had at least one carcass on the side of the road. I saw dead deer, fox, coyote, rabbit, skunk, antelope, porcupine, and even a brown bear along with many other animals that I could not recognize. But here in Arizona I notice very little road kill, and it leaves me wondering why. There could be several explanations—there are no animals, at least no animals crossing the road; animals have lots of wide open spaces in the bush and have no need to cross roads; the animals are smarter here than the rest of the United States; people are so hungry in Arizona that the road kill doesn’t remain on the road long (I’m just letting my mind run wild on this topic); or people in Arizona have so much respect for all living things that dead carcasses found in the middle of the road are quickly removed to a better resting place off the road. The answer is still not clear to me.
One of my friends from Canada has so much reverence towards animals that when she finds a dead animal on or beside the road, she stops her car, even if she is running late, and removes the body from the road with a shovel that she keeps in her trunk. She has often expressed her distain for people who have no respect for animals and who leave them lying on the asphalt to be continually pulverized by fast-moving rubber tires. To put it her way “If that were somebody’s mother, sister, or friend lying on the road dead, would people still pass by without regard for the dead person and run over the body like they were tenderizing a piece of meat? Why should it be any different for animals?” She has a point. This is a woman who is so connected to animals that she walks every day with her domestic cats in the woods near her home with wild raccoons tagging along.
If we don’t love animals enough to respectfully dispose their dear dead carcasses when we find them on the asphalt, then we must fear them, or fear something, because there are only two true emotions—love and fear. Are we afraid of what other people will think if we’re seen shovelling an animal off the tarmac, a demoralizing act of kindness? Are we afraid that the animal will suddenly come to life and bite our toes off? Do we say to ourselves I have nothing to use to move it out of the way? Or do we just not care, after all, it’s just a stupid dead animal? Maybe we don’t stop because we never have. Whatever our reason(s), I don’t believe that God wanted us to behave like that.
The fact is every living thing on earth has been created with the same essence as God the Creator. We are all one. Every human and every creature whether great or small has a vital life force which keeps our physical form alive and connected to every other living form. Humans and animals alike are connected to each other with this same Divine energetic essence. Every human is our brother or sister regardless of what that person looks like, where he or she lives, or what he or she believes. One evil negative thought, word or deed will affect everyone and everything on the planet because we are one of the same. A bad spoke in a wheel weakens the integrity of the whole wheel. Any thought or belief to the contrary of what God intended for us is to live in denial of our truth and to live in ignorance of who we really are.
I still don’t always stop and remove a dead animal from the road. If I had on my journey from Nova Scotia to Arizona, it would have taken me six months to get here. But thanks to my nature-loving friend, I have begun to see road kill in a different light, and I now take time to do what I can. I would like to think that my actions are the result of my attempts to evolve spiritually and not as a result of a guilty bleeding heart for all the spiders that have come and gone in my life.