Sunday, July 18, 2010

Contemplating the First Precept

The first Buddhist precept is non-harming.

Each fall my classroom is invaded with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of common house flies. Our school's out in the country and there are cows and horses around. Lotsa flies, too. I have swatted countless flies. During my career, I've become an accurate and efficient user of the fly swatter, but each year it's harder and harder for me to do it..

I know the flies I swat just want to have a good day. They're going about their business, not meaning me any harm. I'll admit that they give me plenty of unwanted attention from time to time. Especially right before they die off, around Thanksgiving. That's when they can get really pesky and land over and over again somewhere on my head.

When I kill them, I feel like a murderer. Am I alone in feeling this way? Please, someone tell me I'm not too weird, not alone in this feeling.

 Here's a Haiku:

please do not swat me
let me clean myself in peace
we'll all fly away


Lori ann said...

Perhaps if you use a soft swatter? an ostrich feather maybe? this made me smile.

Von said...

I have great problems with this too and live in a place with lots of flies in Summer.I have had to learn to swat.

steven said...

dan i've puzzled over this one myself - since i was a child and stepped around ants and worms. here's my thinking early this morning. perhaps in the intersection of concreted energy that you and the fly represent, there is some larger intention in which the fly needs to die. in the same way as the bacteria that invades your stomach or an open wound bears no malice towards you and you take antibiotics to kill those bacteria it is in your kharma to be available to that bug and to leave this earthly realm. i think the issue is in the forethought of killing. of choosing to kill. our native people ascribe spirit to trees also (as i know you do). i extend this to all plants. i pull "weeds". i wonder about that also. gosh i hope i'm making some sort of sense here - coffee please!!! steven

Bonnie said...

Oh yes - I feel an huge sense of inner conflict if I eliminate a little creature. I would never do that to a larger critter who is annoying me. I console myself that I never do this anywhere but in our bedroom. Bugs elsewhere in the house are ushered outside or tolerated until they find their own way out.

My husband feels this way to the extent that he finds it difficult to prune a tree or plant, considering it 'harming'.

The good news, I tell myself, is that we are living consciously - knowing when we violate our own values.

This, for us all, is a conflict between espoused values and our values in action. We say we believe something - but what do our actions demonstrate?

The Pollinatrix said...

Love the haiku.

A friend and I were just discussing yesterday that there seem to be fewer flies than normal around her this summer. But more mosquitoes, for some reason.

I have to admit, I don't really have a problem with killing flies. I wouldn't mind being killed with a clean fast swat.

unnamedmessenger said...

I understand that to walk this life as a physical being it is impossible to live without causing any harm, without causing death. I must eat and therefore something must die so I can live. But I carefully watch what I cause death to. I will not swat a fly to kill, just swoosh them, I will walk around ants and so on. I try daily to reduce the suffering that I cause to anything, but am thankful, grateful to that which gave it's life to sustain mine. I offer my gratitude to those who sustain me, serve me, in all forms. At least the practice of gratitude is my small way of offering service back,
Thank you

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Lori ann. I've seen gizmos that look like bazookas that suck in flies and trap them for safe release outdoors. But it would be difficult to use it to capture the 100s of flies I have to deal with each fall.

Dan Gurney said...

Von, I knew I had company!

Dan Gurney said...

steven, I think you've got it. Being alive means killing other beings. There's no escape from that. We think nothing of killing bacteria on a wound, for example.

It's about intention and purpose. Killing flies is my edge. I still do swat flies, but perhaps I'm getting closer to the day I won't.

Like you I step around small bugs, snails, and so forth.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie. I believe what I do more than what I say. They match up pretty well, but not completely.

Dan Gurney said...

Polli, thanks for mentioning the haiku. It was actually my favorite part of this post. All the talk introducing probably took away some of the attention it deserved.

Dan Gurney said...

unnamedmessenger, well said. Thank you for offering your thoughts here.

Brighid said...

Enjoyed your haiku.
As for flies, I put small bags of water in the windows and they don't bother me. Have small sections of the blue freezer(bubble wrap like) bags hanging in the chicken pen and the flies don't bother them either.

Dan Gurney said...

Brighid, that's interesting. I'll have to try that. Do you know how or why it works?