I walked outside earlier and I saw a slug on the sidewalk. He had been there since the night before because I’d seen him then too… except that, rather than being the young, vibrant and healthy slug he had been then, he was now little more than an overcooked french fry.
He wasn’t the first slug I’d seen like that, nor is he likely to be the last, but for some reason — be it either the day, or the fact that I was tired, I don’t know — his situation made me stop and think. I looked at him, drying in the hot afternoon sun, and I thought to myself, “well, is that all?”
It just made life seem so bloody futile. I mean, that slug had been alive mere hours earlier and, though I don’t have any idea what the average lifespan of a common garden slug is, I’m pretty sure he’d been cut down in the prime of his life. He reminded me of a man stranded in the desert, having died struggling to make it towards a mirage he’d never be able to reach.
So is that all life is?
As humans — these holier-than-thou, top of the food chain masters of creation that we like to think ourselves — we hold life, and in particular human life, in a state of reverence. From the youngest age, we’re taught that “thou shall not kill” and so on, because human life is more important than anything else.
Really, though, are we any different from the slug that was slowly crisping on my sidewalk? We all come from the same basic genetic pool (or, for the creationists that might be passing by, we were all made by the same magical dude in the sky) yet, that slug, who had experienced life just like any one of us, died without any fanfare or audible warning. He’d just passed on into the night, for no reason: he hadn’t sinned, he wasn’t a member of any LA street ganges. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I was probably about the only person who mourned him.
I thought to myself, “what a damn shame,” and then thought back to lives that I had taken, and that we all take, whether intentionally or not: the lives of spiders, bugs, mosquitos, squirrels on the road, that sort of thing. And I realized that, regardless of whether I’d made a conscious decision at the time or had had no choice, I had taken away from some other creature the very thing that I, and we, as humans, hold most sacred: life.
Who in the bloody hell am I, or any of us, to decide when some other living creature is to die? We — all of us being creatures on earth — have the same basic life. Sure, we might have mildly different plumbing or excessively different and/or disturbing facial protuberances, but all in all we’re pretty similar. And it isn’t my, or anyone else’s, place to…