Bulk Thoughts on Spring suicides midway through the heat of summer…et al.

I remember a drive to work in March or April flying into the deep suburban northwest, cigarette smoke tarring my Chevy’s interior, face faking smiles at pedestrian halfway crosswalkers. It was a heavy ride with the sun shining in an unfamiliar fashion, but it also was one in which I was greeted with a fresh throng of mammalian carcasses every couple of miles. Skunks, squirrells, rabbits and even a few deer littered the shoulders of County Line Roads and Main St. suburban thoroughfares. Blood met asphalt all along God’s country. Animal death never much has bothered me, but I was perplexed by this particular scenery of carnage given the first signs of Spring were erupting and finally, after an interminable February, the days were stretching longer and the sun was sharing its warmth. Why would these jittery creatures wait all winter to hurl themselves onto the road to become a buffet for birds? Why endure the harshest months of the year and not reap the bounty of a new equinox? There was something unnerving and unnatural about the experience. St. Thomas Aquinas once used his observations on animal behavior to justify that suicide was against natural order and for much of history it was believed animals were incapable of self destruction because of an innate “WILL TO LIFE” veining through all living organisms. The will to live is our fool proof drive to preserve our own well being no matter the cost (think: ground level conscious processes of fight or flight). If nature’s law is God’s law, then how could there be a clause for such catastrophe? At first I extrapolated onto an extraorinarily predictable apocalyptic level (think: 2012 is a word cancer that is flipping Burroughs over in the grave): the animals ‘knew’ of some strange, terrible thing about to come (think: UFO deathstars, radiofrying solar flares, psychoactive stardust burning comets). Maybe these animals simply had a quicker beat, and the forecast they picked up was unbearably grim. But such musings are always first instinct for the human ego, to make everything out to be an end of the world scenario where subtle balances of spirit and cosmo twist over OUR crucial decisions. No truth could ever come from that. It occurred to me, in a Holy Spirit fire by way of brimstone epiphany, that the animals might be martyrs. Perhaps a new religion was sweeping the Northern Illinois prarie area. Perhaps a virgin racoon mother had laid her holy litter in a manger next the Exxon and the Word had been revealed to the field mice foraging for poppey seeds behind the Denny’s across the street. Perhaps spiritual exuberance and ebullience had come over them and the only way to express their transformed states was to scatter blindly in all directions with their newfound message of love. Some just happened to cross a dual axle thoroughfare on their ecclesiastical conversion missions. None of my theories, however amusing, seemed to hold up. At work I reasearched various accounts of suicide in the animal kingdoms, and most explanations distilled down to a Darwinian kind of biological accounting: when could the loss of one life have a greater value to others, especially others that are genetically similar (aka in the same family). It made sense in the examples provided by scientific journals (think: pea aphids suicide bombing lady bugs to protect their relatives on a leaf) but I could find no correlation between the literature and the roadside carnage I had witnessed. Then an essay by Camus came to my mind and I had to laugh at the madness and utter queerness and perverseness of the situation. There was no secret garden or life-saving gnosis, there was nothing below the surface besides the merky waters of life’s unfair and unanswerable riddles. Sometimes nature itself is not natural. There are dark, strange turns in the universe that we are meant to see for no reason other than to see them. And that is the reason for the smile. And should be the reason for your smile. It’s important to find those confused moments and use them for growth, and for humor. Equations are for calculators, life is for spirit lovers. At the end of the day, the animals of Lake County did what they had to do. We get to interepret how we so choose, but essentially there actions were nothing more than the acts themselves in the midst of the great riddle. Your part in it all will be made known, but until then enjoy the ride.

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