I killed a spider.
It was smaller than the foremost segment of my pinky.
I know, I know, you’re probably rolling your eyes wondering what the big deal is. I don’t want to kill things, especially if they haven’t done anything wrong. If it were outside, I would have spent a minute looking at it before wishing it well and continuing on.
But this one was in my apartment. And if I’d taken the time to find something to capture it with, it’d be long gone before I returned. The cats would find it later and that could be disastrous. Or it might crawl into bed with me. Or find its way into a fold of my clothes. Or jump at me while I was in the shower. There’s no telling what might happen. I grabbed a nearby sock, hoping she’d crawl onto it and give me enough time to get to the door (I wear knee-highs; it could happen!). My plan was foiled when she started to scramble towards my hand, and I freaked.
So, as quickly as I could (because I hate to cause pain and suffering), I killed it.
And then I was sad. I’m even a little sad as I write about it. She and I were probably equally frightened of each other, but because I’m a bajillion times bigger, my fear got its own way. And the last thing that little spider felt before she died was fear. (Which is not to say that I think spiders have feelings like we do, but her physiology was geared to the fear-response.)
We could have both won. I could have let her stay. I could’ve redirected her to a quiet little corner and we may never have seen each other again. Or I might’ve had the courage to scoop her up and take her outside, where she’d be much happier. I could’ve found out what type of spider she was, and whether she could do any actual harm.
I think of how in some way or another, we often kill when we’re afraid. Not only in wars and bug-squashings, but in ways we don’t always think of. We kill people’s egos & hopes; we kill relationships; we kill kindness and overall goodwill; we kill community and cooperative efforts.
What’s probably happening is that we’re not recognizing fear for what it is; it’s disguised as another emotion. Many years ago someone said to me, “When you’re angry, ask yourself, ‘what am I afraid of?’.” I’ve found it to be a helpful exercise, but it does require some digging, and you can’t be afraid to become vulnerable enough to answer truthfully.
For instance, I get angry when I get interrupted during a hectic workday. What am I afraid of? “Nothing, dammit! I just wanna’ be left alone to do my job!” Dig deeper: What am I afraid of? “I’m afraid of not being able to finish on time; afraid of getting in trouble for not finishing; afraid of someone going another day without help because of me.” I picked an easy one but you get the idea.
I’m no psychologist (nor do I wish to be one), but I’m sure our fear is disguised by things other than anger. And if we’re not mindful, we could be going around killing where peaceful solutions might be found. It would be helpful all around if we recognized our triggers and answered, What am I afraid of? Sometimes when we break it down and reason it out solutions come to mind or the issue doesn’t seem as frightening as it once did.