The Karmic Repercussions of Backyard Genocide

The sun is out and many of us are finding ourselves in our backyards, cleaning off grills, sweeping decks and porches, setting small fires (that’s a joke). I enjoy the solitude and sunlight of my backyard. My neighborhood is typically quiet and as I spend more time in my back yard, I have the natural compulsion to sculpt it to meet my needs.

That is to say, mow the lawn, plant grass seed, I’m even constructing a small garden. I’ve found several audiobooks on gardening and, as a spiritual Madisonian, being eco-friendly is important.

Today, I overturned a rock and discovered an ant hive. You know, like when they dig up to something they can’t cut through then run along that surface, creating tunnels. Well, these particular ants buried a whole pile of larva just under the center of this rock. I’m not a huge fan of insects – but I understand their necessity in the ecosystem.

My impulse was not to crush them out of spite – but to consider relocation, or, as my mind wandered, the karmic fallout from committing what amounts to genocide against these ants who are only in danger because of the poor circumstances of their hatching. Had they hatched and hived forty feet to the left, they would be in the back yard of my neighbor – who does not care about ants or karma.

In the campy horror film Them, giant ants threatened humanity.

In the campy horror film Them, giant ants threatened humanity.

While I’m no physics expert, I’ve done a little more than the average amount of reading on theoretical physics (typically as it relates to astronomy). According to quantum physics, those ants, in another existence, a parallel existence or another shadow of the multiverse, could be intelligent. They could be the dominant species in another dimension – of course not those ants, but ants in general. They could even be me, according to quantum physics where everything goes watery. Pouring a pesticide on their nursery (larva – remember) could be a war crime. Or suicide. It could be cross dimensional suicide by genocide. What to you think they would say about that at confession?

Another habit a person picks up in Madison is tolerance for just about everything – an overly Buddhist idea – where basically, no one gives a shit what others do, and those who do care are typically fanatics, morons or busybodies. I digress. My point more or less, is that Buddhist ideals tend to permeate the area and one of those ideas is to be in the moment (Zen is my flavor).

While in this moment, I started to think about the karmic repercussions of wiping out this hive. So much so, I had to step back to avoid a panic attack. I’ve killed my share of ants, insects, arachnids, and assorted crawlies. But I try very hard not to do it out of fear or spite. By taking a step, I could have ended more than one hundred living creatures.

Buddhists, (and Hindus, I think) no matter the flavor, have determined than no man (or woman) could be reincarnated as an insect. Because – fuck it – no one wants to have to live next to wasp’s nest and get stung every day while risking political and religious fall out from disobeying a primary tenet of the faith. That gotcha was neatly tied off by “insects are not people reincarnated.” Cool.

The Dharma Wheel

The Dharma Wheel

So, at least according to the Buddhists and the Hindus, I’m not committing genocide by wiping out this hive of ants. However, the problem remains – I don’t want the ants in my yard, but they’ve done nothing to me. Further, could I not be doing the insects a favor – for if they are men and women, they surely don’t know it and are waiting for their next incarnation, eagerly, if possible for an insect. Further, they have lived good and correct lives as ants. They have tunneled, eaten, defecated (if ants do that), reproduced, and basically done everything an ant can expect to do in its lifetime (there’s a sincere and cruel joke about humanity in this, but I’ll save it for later). These ants are, for all intents and purposes, as their karmic peak. Wiping them out, even the larva, would be doing them a favor – what ever their eternal being is, they’d be off to the next incarnation as quick as that – with what amounts to positive karma. Though karma isn’t like coin of the soul, and can’t be spent, per se.

I’ve read no less than a dozen books that fence with the concept of karma and still don’t have a good explanation, except, “It doesn’t work that way.”

Karma is perhaps best described as “the way things should work.” According to Google (Hail the Overlord of Data!), Karma is the sum actions in various incarnations. It’s intrinsically related to cause and effect – but, “Instant Karma” ain’t “gonna get ya.”

It doesn’t work that way.

Of course, that seems like I’m working very hard to justify the slaughter of an entire ant hive. Then again, they’re just ants. But there’s a cause and effect connection – what if a species of aliens chose to mine our solar system of the necessary elements for life to occur on earth? Are they then responsible for pro-active genocide? 

In the end, I chose to leave the rock off the spot where the hive had been built – my message to their colony instinct “this place is not safe to hive.”