This week, I had a companion in my car during my drive to work. He wasn’t large enough to warrant my using the carpool lane, which is just as well, as I don’t commute very far. But he taught me a big lesson.
My companion, you see, was a housefly. I watched him fly back and forth in front of me, landing on the windshield, stopping to clean his legs. I had moments when I felt powerful, realizing I could kill him with the smallest of gestures. But then, I realized the fly was powerful, too. He was dividing my attention between himself and the road. And, when he flew close, in front of my face, he had the power to distract me to the point of an accident.
An optimist is a fellow who believes a housefly is looking for a way to get out. – George Jean Nathan
I thought about how short the average housefly’s lifespan is – 28 days. I didn’t want this one to be trapped in my car for any longer than necessary. I opened my windows, even though May started off unseasonably cool and rainy. My heater ran and raindrops splattered me as I watched the fly not make a quick exit. I pulled into my spot at work and opened my door. I thought I saw the fly leave. But no, he was there that afternoon, as I headed home. I began to worry he’d die in my car, and no one should have to spend the last hours of their life there. I reminded myself my car was long overdue to be cleaned – but then, perhaps that’s why the fly wasn’t in any rush to move on.
We have a relationship with every living thing we share this planet with. Size doesn’t matter – if it did, we wouldn’t have cows as part of our food supply and elephants in circuses. Bees wouldn’t be so important to our planet. Humans would be more aware of the fact that nothing is infinite, and that our supplies of food, water, and shelter aren’t endless.
And maybe we wouldn’t perpetuate the belief that animals – great and small – are here for us to use as we see fit. Did you know that even the housefly has become part of the endless list of beings we use? In some parts of the world, housefly larvae is used in factory farms – to clean the manure. Why is the answer to the problems that factory farming causes – disease, pollution, sickness, death – the use of another animal to get rid of bacteria? There is something else that would get rid of the bacteria – ending the systematic methods we use to make sentient beings into meat, dairy, and egg products. We’re powerful, and we should use that power for the good of all beings.
We have no control as to the circumstances into which we’re born, whether we’re a suburbanite office worker, a cow in a CAFO, or a housefly. I haven’t seen the fly in a couple of days. I hope he flew away and got on with his life. I’m grateful for the lesson he taught me.