A few years ago I wrote and produced a video called I Am Human. The video was one of my many attempts to understand humanity and the nature within us and around us. I have often struggled with our greater cosmic purpose and often find myself quietly observing our human nature, and reflecting on my own personal thoughts and actions to try to better understand who we are. I initially theorized that humans were inherently good creatures who often succumb to outside negative influences which cause them to do bad things.
My production started out with a voice saying: “I am tired, but I cannot sleep. Yet I am sleeping, but not awake. I am hungry, and I want to eat. I Am HUMAN.”
Whenever I am facing a spiritual crossroads or challenge in life, I review this 15 minute video. I have found that, no matter how dark and confusing my path may become, whenever I review this production I find clarity again. This does not mean I like what I have found, but at least I am able to ground myself again.
I want to believe we are good. I have fought my entire life to prove that humans are worthy of salvation. I have read, I have researched, I have meditated, and I have experienced as many aspects of humanity as I could to try to get a better understanding. On most days, I know myself quite well and can honestly say that my intentions are to serve the betterment of not only humanity but all life on Earth. I try to live my life in balance and follow the old saying: “Do what you will, so long as you harm none.” This “none” includes all life on the planet, and not just the lives of people.
Despite the challenges I face in life, however, my family lives pretty comfortably. I’d absolutely love to be doing better, of course, but we’re definitely better than some. We are able to afford to purchase free range eggs and organic foods. I have time to dedicate to recycling and composting to reduce our waste and pollution footprint. When I find an insect in my home, I catch it and release it outside because I believe in the goodness of humanity and the beauty of life. I believe that all life deserves an opportunity to flourish and thrive.
But what happens when our way of life is threatened? Do we hold true to these values of goodness and respect for all living things? Or does the illusion of humanity wash away to reveal the true nature of humanity that is anything but humane?
Earlier in the week I noticed my dog, Gizzmoe, kept running over to our fence and trying to chew at something on the other side. I told her to get away and she complied. (She is always trying to eat something). Two days ago I was pulling weeds from the same area along the fence. My one-year-old son was sitting on a blanket about 10 feet behind me. My wife was in the driveway with my four-year-old niece and seven-year-old nephew. My dogs were roaming carelessly around the yard. I was working my way through a tight network of vines and pulling on them pretty hard when suddenly I heard a low humming. I gave another tug and the hum got deeper. Bees, I thought. Frantically, I froze and scanned my surroundings. My eyes fixated on movement on the other side of the fence where Gizzmoe had been nosing around the other day. A black cloud was rising up from below as the humming grew louder.
“Jenny, get the kids inside!” I shouted. I grabbed my son and shouted at my dogs as we ran for the door. I threw it open, made sure both dogs were in the house, and ran in behind them as I slammed the door shut. I ran to the front of the house to make sure Jenny and the kids made it in safely and met them halfway up the steps. Safe and un-stung.
Why didn’t they attack Gizzmoe the other day? I thought. Why did it take so long for them to come out of the nest? I wondered. I was pulling those weeds for a good five minutes before they came out.
I had a moment of panic at thinking about how terrible the situation could have been. Once I calmed my nerves, I started brainstorming how to handle the situation. I am well aware that there is a bee pandemic claiming the lives of countless honey bees – our pollinators. They are the ones who are responsible for ensuring our plants continue to produce food for us. They are a key part of our web of life, and they are dying. Trying to “harm none,” I wanted to live up to the standards I set for myself. I first set out to determine the type of bees I had on the property.
I cautiously approached the area where I heard the buzzing and through the foliage I spotted not just a nest, but a gigantic hive almost twice the size of a basketball. It was paper gray and attached to both the ground and fence. I looked to my left and saw a few bumble bees flying around one of our trees. Excited, and relieved, I developed my plan. I was sure I’d be able to find a local bee keeper to come out to relocate the hive because these creatures are so beneficial to us. I did not want to call an exterminator because technically these creatures did not do anything wrong. I was afraid of them because of what I knew they were capable of doing, but they had not actually done anything except scare me away from their home. Did such a scare tactic warrant the total annihilation of their entire colony? With a family to worry about, I knew the answer to the question, but it upset me to contemplate.
The next day I called every bee keeper in our neighborhood. I was able to speak with three of them. As I described the nest to them, each one of them confidently told me that I did not have honey bees or bumble bees. “You have bald faced hornets,” they each told me. My stomach sank. These creatures could have killed me, or anyone in my family. My dog had her face in the nest. My son was 20 feet away, crawling around on his own! “You can either call an exterminator, or purchase hornet killer at your local hardware store,” they told me.
I felt defeated. I tried to disprove what they were telling me and scoured the internet for examples of honey bees or bumble bees living in a gray paper nest. Unfortunately, I found nothing. Still determined to avoid having to kill these creatures that had not harmed any of us, even when provoked, I braved a closer look at the nest (with binoculars in hand). I stood about 10 feet from the nest and watched closely for approximately 10 minutes. Finally, two of them emerged. To my disappointment, I saw for myself that these creatures were in fact hornets, and they were gigantic. Hornets have a short temper. Hornets can be very violent. Hornets can kill. I had flashbacks from the time I stepped on one of their nests as a kid and shuddered at the pain I felt from their sting.
Where was my humanity now? It was focused on my family. I love my family and will do whatever I have to in order to protect them. I have no problems defending my family and causing harm to someone or something else if we are attacked or threatened. But these creatures did not attack us. We feel threatened by their presence because of what they are capable of doing to us. But in reality if we leave them be we should have nothing to fear from them. However, as a father, as a husband, and as an uncle I am afraid to take that chance.
Yesterday I purchased hornet killer. The bottle advertised a 20 foot stream of foaming poison. Deadly to hornets. Toxic to the environment. It was the solution to the deadly stings directed against my loved ones. In 90 degree weather I dressed in winter clothing and approached the nest. I began unloading this stream of foam across the air from a safe distance and quickly learned that this 20 foot stream was only a 10 foot spray. I inched closer and hit the nest. Hornets began coming and going rapidly, searching for me. I was trying to get this foam into the entrance, but due to the overgrowth of foliage, I could not hit my target. Without warning, my can emptied and I took off running into the house. I was safe, but I knew my murderous shooting spree was a failure. I ran back to the store, purchased another can, and got a quick pep-talk from the kid behind the counter. I returned home determined to end this encounter once and for all. This time, my can sprayed a little farther. I took aim and sprayed the nest. But it was too dark to tell if I hit the entrance. I don’t know if I killed them.
Tomorrow we are calling an exterminator. I am too afraid to approach the nest again. I am even more afraid to remove the nest once I think they are all dead. So I will hire someone else to do the killing for me. This way, I can continue to live the illusion of “harming none.” I know I am doing what is best for my family. I know given our current standard of living there are no other options. Is this being humane? Am I embracing the goodness that is humanity?
I can’t help to wonder, if we were to one day realize that we are not the rulers of this kingdom – if an advanced race was to come upon us from deep within the Earth or from far out in space – what choice would they make if they discovered our community? Would they let us live undisturbed, or would they find our potential for violence and destruction too threatening to ignore? The answer in my head scares me, and reinforces what I have come to understand about human nature. My final question to you is this:
Can we change?