Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eulogy For A Housefly

Recently I noticed a housefly crawling on the mirror in my bathroom. I was intrigued by it because it's body looked gold, much like the housefly in this photo:

It's interesting, but houseflies do not typically bother or annoy me. I realize flies are typically seen as filthy pests and carriers of diseases because that is, in fact, what they are. But I actually like the tickling sensation of a fly crawling on my hand. That's probably weird, but flies don't bother me. Spiders, on the other hand, which I know rationally are far more useful creatures than flies (specifically because they often eat them) freak me out.

In any case, I watched this "golden" fly crawling on the mirror for a few moments, and then I had to rush off to work. Later that evening, after I came home from work and was finally going to bed, I noticed this same housefly dead on the floor not too far from the toilet. I knew it was the same fly because I had examined it so closely when it had been alive just a few hours before.

And then something strange happened as I looked at this dead fly on the floor: I felt a feeling of compassion and sorrow for this now deceased creature. I truly felt a feeling of sadness for a common housefly. I guess the reason why is because as I stared at this fly only hours before, he or she was merrily promenading and cavorting on the surface of my bathroom mirror with no idea that just a few hours later, he or she would be cold-stone dead on the tile floor.

And then I guess I got to thinking how all of us are just like this little fly, happily living our lives and going about our business, never knowing for certain if today might be our last day on this earth. Death sometimes comes slowly, but for others it is complete, unforeseen, and tragic surprise.

I realize the lifespan of a common housefly is not that long relatively, and therefore I shouldn't be surprised that a once vivacious creature could be lifeless only a few hours later. Nonetheless, I was taken aback and briefly mourned the death of this insect.

I must admit his (or her) funeral wasn't terribly dignified. I picked the fly up with a piece of crumpled toilet paper and flushed it down the toilet. Nonetheless, the fly's death did get me thinking about my own mortality and the mortality of those I love and how short life really can be. For that I am thankful. It's nice to be reminded of the preciousness of life.

Thanks, little housefly. R.I.P.


The Faithful Dissident said...

I think it says A LOT about a person who can look upon even the least of God's creatures with compassion. I'm not particularly bothered by flies either (I don't even own a fly-swatter), but I share your feelings about spiders (though I'm a bit fascinated by them -- isn't a spider web an AMAZING thing?). Anything that I find in my house -- whether it be a fly or spider, I either try to push out an open window or capture in a plastic bag and carry it out into the yard.

It can sound extreme, but I have a real respect for the Jain religion because of its compassion for even the tiniest of creatures.

From Wikipedia:

"Jains are strict vegetarians. They avoid eating root vegetables in general, as the micro-organisms killed while cooking and eating them are countless. Followers of Jain dharma eat before the night falls. They filter water regularly so as to remove any small insects that may be present and boil (and may cool) the water prior to consumption, as heated water will not be the suitable base for micro organisms to develop immediately.

Jain monks and nuns practice strict asceticism and strive to make their current birth their last, thus ending their cycle of transmigration. The lay men and women also pursue the same five major vows to the limited extent depending on their capability and circumstances. Following the primary non-violence vow, the laity usually choose professions that revere and protect life and totally avoid violent livelihoods.

Jain monks and nuns walk barefoot and sweep the ground in front of them to avoid killing insects or other tiny beings.

Even though all life is considered sacred by the Jains, human life is deemed the highest form of life. For this reason, it is considered vital never to harm or upset any person.

Along with the Five Vows, Jains avoid harboring ill will and practice forgiveness. They believe that atma (soul) can lead one to becoming parmatma (liberated soul) and this must come from one's inner self. Jains refrain from all violence (Ahimsa) and recommend that sinful activities be avoided.

Pratikraman (Turning back from Transgression) is a practice of confession and repentance. This is a process of looking back at the bad thoughts and actions carried out during daily activities and learn from this process so as to resolve not to commit those mistakes again. Forgiving others for their faults, extending friendship and asking forgiveness for their own wrongful acts without reservation is part of this process. This enables Jains to get away from the tendency of finding fault in others, criticizing others and to develop habit of self-analysis, self-improvement and introspection.

Jains practice Samayika, which is a Sanskrit word meaning equanimity. During this practice, they remain calm and undisturbed. This helps in recollecting the teachings of Thirthankars and discarding sinful activities for a minimum of 48 minutes.
Jain sadhvis meditating

Mahatma Gandhi was deeply influenced (particularly through the guidance of Shrimad Rajchandra) by Jain tenets such as peaceful, protective living and honesty, and made them an integral part of his own philosophy."

Rob said...

I think that's really sweet. Regardless of the source, it's always good to be reminded that we are not immortal, that our time is limited, we should be grateful for every day we have, and should use our time wisely to benefit ourselves and others.