December 29, 2009

I’m fine

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 10:13 am

I have lost all capacity to categorize my life. As a result of my new philosophical perspective, the sort of good day/bad day summaries that I applied in the past fall drastically short. The best illustration I have for this effect springs from a two minute period of time a few weeks ago.

I was waiting for Dandellion to be dropped off from school by her bus. The bus was late, which was unpleasant, but it gave me time to meditate, contemplate and practice being patient, which was pleasant. As I was waiting for her, I noticed a commotion among some of the workers at the service entrance at one of my favorite restaurants. One of the worker was sweeping with great gusto. With one particularly forceful stroke, I saw the body of some kind of rodent go flying through the air. The rodent was too diseased to identify if it was a mouse or a rat (but I suspect it was a small rat). This upset me, which was unpleasant, but illustrated areas where I can increase my inner calm, which was useful, and therefore pleasant.

He swept it across the street to a construction zone in a fairly brutal manner, which was definitely unpleasant. He clearly didn’t care about the suffering of the creature, which was unpleasant, but this gave me insight into him and his perspectives, which was pleasant. After recovering from my surprise a bit, I walked over to the animal. It was very emaciated, and nearly hairless. I stood about two feet away from it and observed for a few seconds.

This creature was clearly dying. It was not enjoying the process. While I am aware this happens about a billion times a day, I don’t generally get the chance to observe it so closely. I found myself stuck, as I generally hold with the principle that killing is not a good thing (I recognize that my diet is paradoxical on this point). I’m not very experienced in killing things effectively with my own hands, making the likely conclusion of a mercy killing a bit difficult. I chalk this up to being generally unpleasant, but useful and there fore ultimately pleasant.

I had a few seconds to contemplate that this creature was going to die soon, so I had the opportunity to save it some measure of suffering. This is an interesting case study in the general purposes of ending the suffering of all beings. Ultimately, I decided it would be best for me to kill it. Because each moment that went by made it rather more likely that Dandellion would arrive to watch me killing it, I decided haste was probably better. This might have been the wrong decision as it would have potentially been a valuable experience for her. I can not tell if this would have been pleasant or unpleasant.

I decided it would probably not be good for me to kill a diseased rodent with my bare hands, and so search for a rock of large and useful shape. I found one fairly quickly, which was pleasant. I turned back to the rodent and saw that it had begun its final gasps and reflexive twitching. Observing that was unpleasant, and my reaction should have been neutral, which may qualify as suffering of the suffering, but was definitely unpleasant. It died within five seconds of me being ready to kill it.
This post is rather long, and illustrates my perhaps unnecessary contemplations, but it took place in less than 2 minutes of actual time. I had missed an opportunity to save the creature up to two minutes of suffering, which may or may not have been the right thing to do.

I fear I may have missed my goal of eliminating suffering. However, from the perspective of the rat, this might not have been a bad thing. Through this experience, I learned many useful things that I would not otherwise have experienced. If I had been the rat, I would certainly have been willing to pay the price of 2 minutes of suffering at what was certainly the unavoidable end of my life, in order to teach someone else valuable lessons. In that sense, perhaps the ultimately outcome was a net add, and therefore pleasant….

I really don’t know. Trying to distill an analysis of this experience into a set of axiomatic truths is an approach typically used by post-enlightenment thinkers, but not shared by other epistemological approaches. It might not be necessary for me to ultimately decide what I should have done. The repercussions of that experience are likely to be so complex that it will take significant amounts of time to determine whether they are “good” as defined by Kant, Hume, or the religious perspectives of many readers of this blog.


  1. Yes, it is messy trying to figure out (in absolute terms) if any given thing is good or bad, pleasant or not. Everything is so interconnected that isolating an event and categorizing it one way or the other becomes problematic.

    Comment by Mary Ann — December 29, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  2. Mercy killings are harder than anticipated (at least in my case)

    Comment by Karin — December 29, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

  3. Isn’t that the truth…

    Comment by Matthew — December 29, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  4. I once faced something similar as I walked down main street in Morganton. A group of construction workers had chucked a naked baby bird off teh roof of one of the shops and it had bounced off an awning and landed right in front of me. I was sure it’s little neck was broken and took a step closer and saw that it had not been killed by the fall and was in fact seemingly fine (other than now being homeless and parentless). But in that momment I had realised that if it had been injured it would have been more merciful to kill it quickly than let it suffer and die slowly. I wasn’t sure I could purposefully kill a creature, even if it was kinder in the end. Instead I scooped it up and took it to Megans work where one of her co-workers directe me to a wildlife rehbilitator and as far as I know everyone lived happily ever after.

    I don’t think it would have been a positive experience for Dandilion to watch her father smash the life out of a creature even if in reality it was kinder. The first time I was a spectator of an animal dying, it was very hard and has definatly changed my view of life and I was 14-15 years old. (it was a baby rabbit that the neighbors dog had chased out of it’s nest.) 4 might be a bit young for that experience.

    Comment by Terra — December 30, 2009 @ 1:41 am

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