Swatting Flies

When you swat a fly, do you consider whether it’s a male or female? In the interest of minimizing pest population, the male can impregnate many females, but one female can create hundreds of offspring. As for mosquitoes, only females bite, so rest your head for greater concerns.

According to several philosophies, you shouldn’t kill anything, male or female. Let’s take Buddhism, for instance.

I attended a nine-day Buddhist meditation retreat in New Zealand and Gyatso, our teacher/monk, asked that we give it a try and avoid killing the “mozzies.” For extra incentive, Buddhism teaches us that through countless lives, all creatures have been our mother in one lifetime or another.

I made it a few days until one persisted in my tent at night. Sleep is precious. Sorry, Mom.

I’ve contemplated this over and over in recent years. There seems to be a real conundrum… Progressing through the levels: you don’t really need to eat meat -> you can survive without animal products -> you can cover up to protect your skin from swat-provoking bites.

Jain Monks go so far as to walk carefully to avoid crushing creatures in the soil, and adhering to strict diet practice to minimize harming plants and microorganisms. This is obviously extreme, but it forces us to recognize the dilemma. Where do we fall?

One could justify that it was the insect’s karma to be a pest in the first place, and that karma ripens under the heavy fall of my hand. But being that I am not a Buddha, one who has the wisdom to know when it is ok to kill, am I creating negative karma for myself?

Perhaps I’ll be reborn as a fly, and some angry person will squash me and end my miserable, non-human rebirth.

But while I’m a human and can contemplate such things, I’ll go back to the fly. Male or female? According to my research just now, the exact sex-determination mechanism of houseflys is still unresolved. Look it up. Noodle cooked.


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