I think the apartment I currently live in was built on an ant colony. We have them all year, but they’re the worst in the summer. Mostly they come in looking for water, but sometimes they find the cat food. And in very horribly moments they find the crickets (I am so very, very sorry, crickets).
See, I have a small mammal that adores eating crickets. I don’t always keep them on hand because she doesn’t eat them as fast as I would like, which means I have to then add crickets to the creatures that I have to keep alive. And they are tricky, sometimes. Plus, they are insects, so their life spans don’t always wait her appetite out.
My relationship with the crickets is complicated. I feel bad when they die in the cage they stay in until it’s time to put them in her cage to be eaten. Sometimes I think this is a silly sentiment, because I don’t feel bad when they get eaten. Perhaps this is because I have made their fate food, and when they die stuck in a tiny, plastic cage, their lives lose some of their meaning. And then part of me remembers that they are, in fact, crickets. But they are still living creatures, and I feel bad that I have cause their lives to be less than their wild existence would allow. When they are attacked in the tiny, plastic cage I’ve trapped them in by a horde of ants, I am horrified. As soon as I see their tragic turn, they get released in a effort to provide some space to live – because being eaten alive by an ant horde seems ghastly to endure.
And I am sure people will think that this response is unmerited for creatures that are generally despised. It is my philosophy that a person’s true nature is revealed in how they treat beings that are completely helpless. I buy the crickets for my small mammal to eat, because I have taken her from her natural habitat and shrunk her space to a 40 gallon fish tank. She seems happier when she has something to chase to eat (since most of the time she just has a bowl of food). But in doing so, I take on creatures even more vulnerable that I feel obligated to ensure only suffer when they serve as food.
At a time when so much is not good* in the world, remembering to care for the most vulnerable creatures that surround us seems to be the fastest pathway to making the world good again.
*A post about how I use the word good is forthcoming, because I see it carrying so much more weight than its typical use indicates.