1:27 a.m. The baby has been crying, so I am awake. Downstairs, I sit to read. I see a stink bug on the floor. Correction: I see a fellow neural colony inside a stink bug body form. (I am relating to it: The neurons inside this insect are the same as mine, just fewer. It's a neural namaste moment.) I evaluate my choices: For the last several years I have been using a Bugzooka to patiently remove these fellow minds out of my house. But it's late in the season. I haven't seen one of these in my house for a while. And it's 1:30 a.m. and cold outside: I am neither willing to mess with this right now nor do I feel good about kicking out this fellow neural colony into a certain death by freezing.
I open up the browser and type in: "What do stink bugs like?" Yes, for a change, I am considering doing something nice for this fellow neural colony however stinky it might be. Google doesn't seem to support the vector of my inquiry: It tries to refer me to the Orkin man with his shirt-and-tie hard-hatted matter-of-factness of a corporate pest control mercenary.
Most stink bugs are plant feeders. The first generation of the spring often feed on weeds or grasses. As they develop into adults, they often migrate into fields, orchards, and residential landscapes. In these environments, stink bugs feed on apples, peaches, berries, peppers, beans, and pecans. They also feed on field crops like sorghum and cotton. Around homes, stink bugs have been found feeding on ornamental plants.
I don't have any ornamental plants, and I am out of fruit. But I do have some pecans. I look at the stink bug. When I came downstairs it sat motionless next to my red IJoy massage chair (where I now sit, typing). Right around the time I found out that it, like me, likes pecans, the stink bug began to crawl out of sight. I am sure it's been hard at work processing information about my entry into the dining room, analyzing the vibration data, smell data, visual data of my mid-night arrival into its field of awareness.
I watch it crawl away and I know: In addition to liking pecans, it -- just like me -- doesn't like to be disturbed, yet another human quality I can identify with. Frankly, I feel relieved. I am glad I didn't have to actually do anything nice for it: It seems a mere thought-gesture was somehow enough. It bought me time, it bought the bug time, and life -- as it often does -- somehow moved on.
As I finished the paragraph above, the stink bug in question ambushed me from behind and with Model T style buzzing flew over my right shoulder and landed on my right arm, ruining the convenient closure of this midnight neural anecdote. It stayed just long enough for me to think about reaching for my iPhone to snap a picture of this encounter. But once again it beat me to the punch: It flitted off and away with that comical muffled purring sound.
The bug is gone. I won't miss it, but there is an element of emotional significance to this. Next time I see it I'll probably find it with my Dyson vacuum all dead and dried up somewhere in the corner. I'm glad we met.
What can I say about all of this? That I have it good if I have a red iJoy massage chair and an iPhone and a Bugzooka (for humane extraction and removal of bugs), and if this is the kind of silliness that I busy myself with in the middle of the night? Correct: I certainly do have it good -- my Dyson hasn't lost suction in nearly 10 years (truly, the best invention since sliced bread!). But snark aside, there is a long history here that primes this moment -- a history of learning to identify and relate with life's essence regardless of its form. I haven't always been this sentimentally attuned. It was a conscious choice, a pain-in-the-ass kind of growth project, a hassle of compassion. Life was much easier when thoughts like this didn't occur to me but also far less fulfilling.
Expand your radius of identification to the radius of reality. All is one, one is all.
P.S. Make no mistake: This is not an extreme case of rose-colored glasses. I know: Life is a jungle. I've seen a bit of it myself firsthand. Which is why the doors are locked, and the security system is on, and there is a loaded .45 in the gun safe. I've said this before and I always find myself compelled to annotate my writings on compassion. Compassion doesn't have to be foolhardy and naïve. There is a balance to be struck here: If you bust through my door uninvited in the middle of the night I'll do my best to mess you up and yet, whenever I can existentially afford to, I will do my best to extend a Namaste of compassionate recognition to as much of this universe as I can (stink bugs and sociopaths included).
Compassion and safety are not mutually exclusive. In fact, these two are one. Locked doors and open hearts are both forms of security. The former (locked doors, loaded guns) offers you the security of separation, the security of self-other duality, the security of a boundary. The latter (open hearts, open minds) offers you the security of identification, the security of non-duality, the security of feeling one with the universe. Use either means of safety as appropriate.
Good night (or good morning).
More on Neural Tribe.
For more by Pavel Somov, Ph.D., click here.
For more on the spirit, click here.