THE question of what is ethical and rightful action is a tricky one. I was speaking with one of my spiritual teachers and she told me this story. A monk was walking along a country path and saw a child about to be bitten by a snake. He was left with the question: does he kill the snake or let it bite the child?
Of course this a no-brainer for we in the West, but there is doubt in the mind of the Eastern practitioner. It’s not a small question. If one is to intervene and save the child and kill the snake, one would never know what the life purpose of the snake was. It might have been to stop a group of bandits from crossing a path to destroy a whole village.
The monk saved the child because he decided the “right action” can only be taken in the moment with the immediate instinct one has. None of us has any foresight to know the outcome of our actions. But the dilemma gave me pause for thought when dealing with the world.
I have spiders on my ceiling that I believe have the right to live there. Every now and again a butterfly comes in through my open doors and gets caught in a web. The question is always on my mind: because the butterfly is beautiful I want to save it. But won’t the spiders who wait for food, and put so much effort into their webs, starve?
For me there’s never any choice. The butterfly is suffering now, in that moment. I see the wings flapping desperately and I always climb up on my ladder with the broom, even with a fear of heights, and free any trapped insects, dragonflies or moths.
So too with our daily lives. We spend too long contemplating and strategising, trying to pull all the threads together to get the right answer, and missing the point in this overly intellectualised world. Love and instinct are going out the window.
I was thinking of this because a friend is about to marry a man she met just a few weeks ago. She said she just “feels” he’s the one. And who can caution against it? Even “arranged marriages” do better over the long-term than our well-planned ones. Who’s to say my friend will do worse than those of us, like me, who didn’t get it right despite years of knowing my ex, analysing and pre-empting a future of which I had no knowledge?
Spontaneous, loving acts in the moment — of the impetuous, instinctual kind — have much merit. Deductive thinking can get us wrapped in endless circles when simplicity is there.
Use your gut and heart, then act.