I have fungus gnats on my houseplants. I acquired them when I decided to be creative and bring in some moss from outside for a potted arrangement. The moss is long gone, but the flies have taken residency in my other houseplants. So as I sit in front of my monitors, for weeks now, I see them fly by, I reach out and try to catch (and kill) them. Every time I do this, I have a tiny stab of guilt because I know that I am taking the life of a living thing.
A few weeks ago, as I was waiting to turn out of a parking lot, I saw a beetle-like insect trucking it across the road. He wasn’t moving in a straight line, almost as if he was uncertain of his path, but he was moving fast! And then a car drove by and, wham! smush!, his little life gone instantly.
The moment sat with me for weeks – not just the unexpectedness of having life snatched in an instant, but even more strongly, the observation that the little bug had even no awareness of his death. Just one minute he was alive and trucking it along the road, and then, the next moment… not even nothing.
Today, as I sat in front of my computer working from home, I heard a bang on my window and saw a flutter out of the corner of my eye. By the time I was able to shift my visual focus, I saw a neighborhood hawk swoop down and fly off with the little bird in his grasp. I felt a moment of sorrow for the little bird – his moment of death certainly was neither pleasant nor instant – but at the same time felt the thrill of having witnessed such a quick moment in time.
Life is certainly fleeting, even when you live to be old. Most people, at one time or other, have been asked: how would you choose to live if you were told you had so many days, weeks, months or years left? Probably the last time I asked myself this question was years ago – maybe when I was in my twenties – and my answer was always to drop everything and travel the world. (A very twenty-something-year-old answer.) Today, I feel largely like I would keep on living the same way I do now. I’d probably still quit my job, and do some yoga-based service in that time, but the rest of my life and habits would be largely similar. And while there is so much I want to do in my life, if I go the way of that little bug, that is OK.
Perhaps this is part of what it means to live (or what results from living) in accordance with your dharma, to live so in harmony with one’s inner order and universal order that there is a deep seated knowledge that whatever happens, whatever comes, it will be OK.