The last four or five days have been very difficult as I try to maintain adherence to the First Precept in the midst of what has come to look like a systematic invasion of our home by ants.
For those of my friends that may not know, the First Precept pertains to abstaining from taking life. The original Pali language of this precept apparently refers to the breath, so all life with breath is included, while plants (which clearly have respiratory function, but do not actively breathe) are not. The Buddha taught that all beings are equally worthy of life and depriving a being of life is a cause for one’s birth in one of the realms of woe.
So, we’ve always had ants. In past Summers I have been very quick to kill them, but this year I was hoping it wouldn’t become necessary. The only time ants really matter is when they are threatening our food or when they come in ungodly large numbers. We’ve taken measures to ensure that stored food is sealed in ways that pretty much safeguard it from the little-bitties, so even finding a few ants in the kitchen isn’t a big deal, and I honestly didn’t think we’d have a serious problem.
I was, unfortunately, wrong.
Friday the Kitchen was overrun while I was at work, resulting in my wife cleaning up a multitude of things that already seemed clean. I don’t really know the severity of this invasion, but I came home to a clean kitchen and figured it was over. Saturday, however, the Kitchen cabinets were overrun, prompting me to spend two or three hours cleaning the affected dishes, shelves, and counters (again) and caulking numerous possible entry-points.
Saturday ended with the kitchen seeming clean again…
Sunday, all was well until late (near bedtime) when, after watching a movie, my wife walked into the kitchen to find the floor teeming with ants. It was somewhat interesting to see with my own eyes how a seemingly clean floor was so obviously dirty. The ants, in less than two hours, had located at least three puddles of clear [unknown] liquid and established highways all across the floor. Hundreds of ants were traversing these routes in both directions. It took a few minutes, but the sheer volume of ants made it fairly easy to identify a common point of entry… down in the basement!
The death tolls were significant at the end of this cleanup. While I still refuse to resort to spraying poisons myself, I helped clean up after the fact, wiping up numerous injured with the dead. I likened the scene to a charnel ground… it was not fun.
If Sunday wasn’t bad enough, I learned while I was at work on Monday that the ants had invaded my son’s bedroom, crawling all about on his bed, floor, and shelving, apparently in the pursuit of a sucker he left out. Once again, I wasn’t home when this all took place, but I’m assured by my wife that it was significant, and the resultant piles of laundry seem to validate that.
So why did I share this with the world? I feel like I needed to write this both to share the challenges we have been facing, and to confess my failure to prevent, and my own complicity in, the numerous deaths of many little beings in my home over the last few days. I am hopeful that their karma will attain them a more fortunate birth, but for those of you who might prefer a more “christianized” idea, maybe we can hope there is at least a heaven for ants.
Or, at a minimum, let us remember how unfair life can be — a universal truth. One moment you are minding your own business, doing those things that are in your nature to do, and the next, *blam* you’re dead. No notice. No appeals. No good or bad guy, just life and death.
I know I’m not the only person in the world that deals with problems like this. I hope you can relate to it a little. Thank you for reading, and be well, friends.