A small platoon of ants converge around a small particle of a leaf on the sidewalk a little away from where I sit at a table outside a restaurant. Some ants were carrying a portion of the leaf away; other’s were returning for more. Amazing, lively little creatures, obviously functioning with purpose and determination; a sign of a pattern impelled by what might be called brain power, decision making, an exercise of choices, destinations, objectives. Watching them, one can only marvel that just as an elephant has fairly much the same physical make-up, structure, functions as a human – only immensely larger – a brain, a stomach, need for breath, need for food, systems that remove the excess from the corpus – so too, in a microcosmic way – with variations, of course – an ant; the same of similar mechanics, functions, systems, shared by each and every animate creature, however large, however small.
Suddenly, a foot of a passer-by extends to cover the platoon with shoe leather, grinding the ants with a side to side motion, then moving on.
The ants are not lively any longer.
That human foot that extinguished the ants, and at the same moment, extinguished part of the flame of life, that inexplicable force that is not an existence of itself, does not exist by itself, is only passed on, by each and every animate creature, however large, however small, like the passing on of a flame from candle wick to candle wick, in a fragile continuum of sharing.
Whether life began in a primordial ooze, eventually to crawl out onto land and into the sky, to evolve, or whether a Supreme Being at some point created Adam and Eve separately in the Garden of Eden, or some combination, whereby God intervened in the line of evolution and, at some point, separately endowed Man and Woman, life is merely a force, a flame, energy shared, passed on, incapable of being created again, only maintained.
Were the life force snuffed out, expelled, extinguished, like the air from a bladder, including in that snuffing the largest and smallest, the feathered, the scaled, the skinned, it, life, would be gone, snuffed, not capable of re-lighting, like so many dead blackened, burnt, unlighted candle wicks, wicks without flames, incapable of re-lighting themselves, empty shells, useless, dead.
We, each of us, each animate existence, are merely conduits, momentary guardians, sharing, then passing on the flame, as those ants, too, were passing on the flame of life. We animates, none of us, none of them, not alone, not together, have any capacity whatever to create life. If humans were to be extinguished, if only ants, or roaches, continued, life would continue, and somehow, perhaps, evolve again, and millions or billions or years, millions or billions of variations, that flame would continue to burn, to expand, to be passed from one being to another. Yet if, somehow the flame were extinguished…
The little ants, carrying the specks of leaves, that share and pass on their portion of life, are upholders, vessels of life, preservers, passers-on of the same life force that humans share, in exactly the same way and in exactly same manner as humans. That inexplicable, indefinable, extinguishable, irreplaceable, fragile, special, life….