Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dear God, What Have I Done?

The bodies are everywhere.

* * *

I'm referring to the crickets, of course. I sprayed for bugs today... the crickets were keeping me awake, and I snapped. I bought bug spray last night.

I sprayed this morning, with a grim sense of purpose. I covered all the crannies and nooks I could find. I thoroughly coated all entry-ways to my apartment.

Stunning and releasing wasn't working.

So I killed them.

I just found a bunch of them in my bathroom, belly-up, some 14 hours after the deed. Their jumping legs extended straight out, their other legs (for non-jumping purposes?) curled up. Like they were praying to whatever cricket god crickets might believe in for mercy.

What have I done? What havoc have I wrought?

Bug spray is a fairly powerful neurotoxin. It takes over the nervous system, causing insects to uncontrollably spasm before they give out completely.

For years, I caught spiders and released them outside. I shooed beetles off the tennis courts so that I wouldn't step on them while sending yet another forehand wide and to the right (or while hitting any other shots... my concerns were not solely forehand-related!).

Where did those high-minded ethics go?

Were they crushed under the inevitable pragmatism of living in a basement apartment with lots of holes conveniently sized for insects? Was it me deciding that my interests are more important than those of the exoskeletal denizens of the earth?

I've heard it said that everyone starts off idealistic, and then becomes a Republican. (After life fails to live up to ideals, et cetera).

My ideals are the only thing that keeps me going, some days. They're almost solely the engine behind my teaching, and a lot of the engine behind the work that I do around teaching (the First Year Teacher book, for example).

Put simply, the belief that I can do it better than anyone else, in a more moral and ethical fashion, with more learning happening in my classrooms than in any other.

That's a hefty ideal, one that'll surely crack (and one that exposes my ego). But I've spent a lot of time, especially since January, doing my absolute best to figure out the most morally appropriate way for me to be a teacher while upholding the dignity of my students and of our study (of English/Literature). And I'm still thinking about that.

How long before I just spray RAID on all of it? How long until I trade a profession that keeps me up at night sometimes for one that turns me into some sort of undertaker, feeling a vague sense of guilt for yet another student whose love of learning I crushed, but mostly just hunger for a sandwich, and the desire to be out of the building 10 minutes after the last bell rings?

How long before I trade hard, sometimes quixotic work for an $8 can of bug spray that achieves the same ultimate goal.

How long before I decide that the end always justifies the means?