Friend, Foe or Higher Ground

Michaele AlexanderThoughts on Things

I am again pondering at what point are humans, or any creatures for that matter “bad”. Or rather can their behavior, their choices be considered “bad” vs. “good”. Good seems easy enough. To me it is a feel thing. A broad sense of safety and keen interest on the receptive end. A recognizable coherence in the field of the creative Art that is Life. A wonderful unobstructed view from a mountain top on a clear day with so much to see.

But the “bad”, hmmmm, now that indeed is a struggle through many landscapes, both foreign and familiar. A view often interfered with by the darkness of cultural habits, misconceptions and misgivings. “Bad” is not just a label but a Way of Being. Not just a rejection of habit but a repulsion to a part of Life as we know it. I have been mulling this over for a matter of years… It requires slow and careful digestion.

When I witnessed a relative go after a surge of ants in her kitchen (not for the first time, nor I am afraid the last) with the zeal of a newly promoted Captain in the Army, it seemed to me such a disconnected act. I had on many occasions found a river of ants and watched them with great interest, leaving them alone to do what they may, and found them absent from view within the day. I figured they were relocating. But then that was my “Story of the Ants”. Were the ants truly “good” or “bad? It is only a measurement in perspective of one creature to the next.

Lately I have come to name the five individual ants that wander our countertops at home, two on one side, three on the other. They are very distinct to me, each searching out what meets their needs in rather different ways. Let someone claim anthropomorphism to their hearts content but I can tell them apart, Bob from Ernie, Emil from Sally and Charmaine. As for if they are boys or girls, that’s just what popped in my head at the time. Besides, “A rose by any other name”…

They are ever so slightly varying in size, but more to the point they have individual characters. Two are unquestionably more curious than the others. Emil is quite small and tags happily along behind Bob most days rather like a younger brother. Charmaine and Sally seem to be having more conversation with each other than anyone else, but in a casual way. Ernie explores everything with dogged determination and quiet content.

Each morning I greet them by name and strangely they stop, lift their tiny heads and wave their antennae. I can even set out a microscopic tidbit for one of them, “Here Bob” and he will turn around and come investigate it. When I cook they are respectful and keep off to the side, curious as to the outcome. I think they know I would be mortified if I squashed them.

How are they supposed to be more of a pest than the neighbor’s kid who had a car alarm that went off at least once a day… Every single day… For months? He is nice too and that was way more annoying.

I have come to the conclusion that when human capacity to discern has been diminished and when there are too many conscious entities to establish either a flow or personal relationship with, an individual becomes prone to the choice of dividing everything into “Us” and “Them”, “good” and “bad” just to maintain some sense of self distinction, direction or purpose.

People tend to feel threatened when overwhelmed. I often wonder if this is why sports teams, political “races” and the behavior of people or situations placed in the public eye can be such polarizing topics fraught with great emotional upheaval even to those not involved. Societally we become like a toddler, overwrought by too much stimulation, throwing a tantrum when all we really want is a safe and loving place to rest and feed our souls.

Sadly we as humans all too often than naught put our backs up against our collection of “rules” when we have no spine of our own to support us. We close down our worlds as we give in to the “rules” of others when we are too lazy to collect observations and make judgments on our own. We can be prone to quietly rail behind the scenes at the unfairness of “rules” we do not agree to yet never openly and directly give voice or action to our opposition.

If we are taught to carry a yardstick that decrees “ants are bad” and never inquire for ourselves we will miss out on the Art that is Life. Art and science are very different, though both may capture our interest. Science qualifies. It is quantitative, separating, a counting mechanism, orderly. A world of measurements to view the world with. A judgment that supports the current rule of “Law” or opinion.

Art on the other hand is surprising, comforting, at times unruly, a flowing modality of attraction and repulsion that is independent of measurement. A closing of a gap or a distancing one’s self. A textural and visceral rather than contextual lending of quality to Life for which we as humans long.

Could we in the moment, in each moment, choose how we perceive rather than just receive? Can we walk our way to a different, more open vista? Might we find with a better view our choice of categorization to be trumped by the acceptance of curiosity, exploration and delight? Can we see Bob through more than the pedestrian designation of “ant”? I think that we can.

But we may still need something to lean upon as we pace this measured road. The walking stick by which I gage my stride is “Kindness”. And though I sometimes forget it is there for me or can falter when I reach towards it, I will always feel right in trusting that it will hold me as I make my way towards higher ground.