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When I was a kid, I hated centipedes, just like most everyone else. Almost all bugs are creepy — ok, so we give lady bugs a pass, and butterflies can be beautiful. But most bugs have odd shapes and all sorts of crazy and vaguely threatening arrangements of legs and tentacles and body plates, they have weird eyes and stingers and other ugly protrusions. They seem like feelingless robots, as they fly with their buzzing sound or dart around on the ground. Centipedes take “buggyness” to the next level.

But a guy at my zendo once told me that centipedes are a good way to practice the Buddhist notion of patiently respecting all life forms, even insects. You’d have to be a really devoted Buddhist to ignore a poisonous spider or to “gently” remove it. And roaches are so overwhelming; they truly push you to the “me or them” point of survival. But as to the average house centipede . . . well, no doubt that centipedes are terribly ugly and creepy. You usually see one darting across the floor or up a wall, and your instantaneous mental instinct is to drop everything else and plot an “intercept vector” in your head, and then kill the dang thing, right now!

But my Buddhist friend told me that most house centipedes are not a threat to humans. They try to stay away from people, and
even in the super-rare event where they do get close and bite, they don’t do much harm. They have some venom in them, but it generally won’t do us much harm, although it could cause temporary redness around the bite and be sore for a day. But they don’t create nests nor destroy stuff like termites and moths, and they don’t carry disease. And usually a lone centipede doesn’t mean that there’s a swarm of them lurking somewhere, as with ants and roaches (although if you do see too many, then you have a problem).

What centipedes do mostly is to hunt and eat other bugs. If you see one in your house, it is because that centipede believes that there are some juicy bugs to eat there. Most of the bugs that centipedes go after are ones that you also don’t want around and might actually be damaging; e.g. silverfish, ants, roaches, files, moths, etc. Centipedes move so quickly that they can actually outrun a roach and turn it into a meal.

So over the past few years, I’ve been trying to take a different policy when I spot the occasional centipede crawling around my bathroom. My muscles still instinctively tense up and my stomach still knots in preparation for the kill. But then I remember my new policy and I can almost hear myself yelling “STAND DOWN”. At first it seems crazy and absolutely wrong to just let that vermin crawl away unscathed. But after a while, I noticed that life seems to go on. And to be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of other bugs around either since I started giving “100 footers” a break.

Not long ago, I found a centipede crawling around in my bathtub. Since I didn’t need to use the tub at the time, I decided to look the other way. But I stopped in the bathroom later on, and it was still there. And the next morning — same thing. I sometimes skip a day taking a shower, and this was one of them. But later that day, the centipede was still there.

In the evening, the bug was standing on a bar of soap in a dish. I decided to get a pic of my little house companion. Looks like he or she or whatever it was had seen better days. I noticed that this one did not want to run, and when you tried to shoo it, it didn’t run very far or very fast. I guess that this was an old centipede, and it wanted to turn my bathtub into its retirement home.

Well, sorry but I needed to use the tub the next morning, so I decided to move the guy. I came in while he/she/it was lounging on the bathmat, so I yanked up the mat and took it over by some boxes next to my toilet bowl. I gave it a shake, and the centipede was gone. Hopefully, he/she/it found a new home for the remainder of its time here on earth, somewhere amidst my toiletry supplies. I never saw it again.

But then again, that was one of the more interesting human-bug interactions I’ve seen in my time. So here’s my tribute to whoever that karma spirit was that temporarily sought sanctuary in my bathtub. I can’t say that I had developed any affection for it; it was still too buggy for me. But it certainly was interesting and worthy of a bit of respect! However odd that might seem to the average centipede hater.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:32 pm      
 
 


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