The other day, I’m sitting with a friend in the afternoon exchanging pleasantries when she abruptly stands up, picks up a stick from the ground and goes on to remove something that was hanging on the tree branch above her. On the ground falls a “dudu makamasi” (I don’t know the English translation).
I was like, "Ni nini wewe...?" It probably took that innocent creature ages to that far up from the ground.
She responds, "I was afraid it would land on me and I can’t stand that..."
First of all, dudu makamasi are not threatening or harmful, except for their slime which might cause a slight skin reaction on contact. Otherwise, it's all good, just another of God’s friendly creatures.
This is telling about human behaviour and our thinking. If it was me that had issues with the dudu makamasi, I would gladly move away and let it freely go about it's business. Not saying I haven't smashed the heads of a few mosquitos in my lifetime but in my attempt to be mindful, I occasionally watch where I step, what I do and I’m aware of my surroundings.
We as human beings have a tendency to bulldoze our way through this earth. We remove from our space everything that makes us uncomfortable or that’s not for our amusement, whether or not those things are harmful. We act like the earth and everything in it was made to serve us and only us. If we can’t live with other creatures we kill them or surround them with barbed wire and pay to go ‘visit’ them.
I am not advocating that we stop eating animals as part of being mindful. I just now understand why we have to give thanks for food. We are thanking God for providing and also thanking this living thing that gave its life to sustain ours. Halal makes sense.
We hear cases of elephants attacking villages. Wild animals and humans constantly clash. Truth of the matter is, as our population increased, we ate everything we could for our sustenance and came back for what the animals had- spaces they had inhabited from time immemorial.
Working with elephants a few years back, I learned about their intelligence and way of living. Each generation has the responsibility to pass down information to the next which is actually memories. Elephants will walk the same route that their great grandparents did. Unfortunately, that route has now been taken over by human beings and fenced. What elephants see as their blocked path, we see our precious shambas and little huts.
Funny enough, the earth hits back. Where do you think cancer, floods, earthquakes come from?
I haven't killed a mosquito in a while, I just shuuu it away or put in measures to keep them at bay. You don't want to see me kneeling down on the ground to watch ants as they criss cross about their business. When I see roaches I am like, "Niaje G" because the guy might have survived many civilizations.
My existence as a human being is not that special, I exist in an ecosystem that I have to acknowledge. When I am led by greed I will destroy each and everything on my way to just satisfy those futile needs. This happens in relationships too- someone agreeing to go out with you does not make them ‘yours’ and you cannot claim them. A ring is not similar to hot iron branding a cow you own. They are a living thing with a past, with needs, issues, fears, desires and ambition, just like you.
I would not lay claim to anybody in my existence because they are not property that I can own. I try not to say things like "How could you do this to me?" Yes, accountability for one's actions matters, but I will not expect a lot from anybody. I choose to let them be. They are not toys that I can shape into my liking and if they don’t jump, bark or quack like I want, I throw them away.
It happens in our relationship with God too. When life doesn’t go how we planned, we expect the God we created for ourselves to fix it. When that doesn’t happen either, we throw tantrums. If you can't stand the weather, you can’t move the sun or change the seasons, you simply adapt to it, by wearing more or less.
I am not claiming to be complacent or saying that I settle for less. I am encouraged to be mindful and to know I am part of an ecosystem. That other living things’ existence is equally as important as mine.
I stay mindful of plants, small animals, insects, rodents, the air, birds... whatever life form is in them is without a doubt in me too.