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The Kill Jar

Updated on February 19, 2013
Lady Bug
Lady Bug

As a young boy, I spent most of my time unsupervised. I had a few friends that were in the same situation. Together we found ways to entertain ourselves. Not all of them were savory.

One of the ways we entertained ourselves was by torturing insects. For example, simple creatures like lady bugs were captured, a straight pin driven through the center of their bodies, with the narrow end of the pin stuck into an ordinary eraser.

Sometimes we did the same with very small butterflies.

In a miniature scale, we created our own Golgotha.

We did this with an innocently sadistic sense of curiosity. We were curious how the bug would react. No one told us how or why this was perverse.

Friends and I also created our own small Coliseum, where we could throw a bunch of different insects together to see how they would behave. The arena was confined to a jar with a lid. Anything we could catch would go into the enclosure.

We'd locate red ant hills and include a number of specimens. Pill bugs, spiders, wasps, moths, caterpillars all became tiny gladiators. We peered into the jar dispassionately. There was no thought of doing something wrong.

If the action seemed ordinary or dull, we sometimes dropped a match into the kill jar, screwed the lid on tight, then ignited the match head using a focused beam of sunlight as supplied by a magnifying glass. Once the match ignited, everything inside the kill jar would die within one or two seconds. Therein, we created our own miniature Auschwitz.

Looking back through the years at these unrecognized cruelties, I have to wonder what propelled my pals and myself to come up with torturing helpless life forms as a form of entertainment. Why did we not possess an innate sense of repulsion over our pass-times? We obviously needed some adult guidance to make us understand why these practices were immoral. Someone needed to teach us the fundamentals about ethics and an appreciation of all life forms. We never received this instruction.

Only gradually did we develop a conscience and experience an odd sense of repulsion over our actions.

Today, I think I may over-compensate a bit for my earlier deeds. When a spider, cricket, beetle is discovered inside my home, I take pains to capture the insect, as opposed to merely squashing it. Captured, I let the creature free to the outside world.

But, I am not entirely merciful. If I find a string of black ants streaming into my cupboards, I will wipe them all out with an insecticide. If I find my kitchen has been invaded with cockroaches, I have no problem placing bait traps around so that they can carry poison back to their nests.

There is a clearly definable difference between what I engaged in as a youth and my actions as an adult. I am not happy about having to wipe out a colony of ants or cockroaches, but they took the first step by invading my home.

I do not cry over their loss because I know that there are billions more of their kind. There is virtually no chance of these species becoming extinct.

The focus of this Hub is really about the unconscious state of a young boy who does not innately understand right from wrong. I never felt as if my "play" was linked with any malice. I would not have even understood the word back then. Happily, this state of unconsciousness did not extend into the area of mistreating small animals -- not for myself -- although I witnessed one of my friends plunging into this direction, e.g., using BB guns to shoot down small birds then breaking their necks bare handedly -- or using a sling shot to separate a female, nursing dog from her pups.

All the same, I have to wonder why we are not all born with a built-in sense of care and wonderment regarding even the lowest level of life forms. What concerns me is if we are not inherently born with a respect for the lowest of life forms, how does this translate into a feeling of compassion for human beings who seem very much unlike us?

Are we anything more than killer apes? I sure hope so.

Perhaps a little good parenting would have gone a long way. But, for latch-key kids, we didn't receive any guidance, and acted upon our own unconscious motivations -- odd and abhorrent as they may have been.

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    • Sphinxs Sanctum profile image

      Sphinxs Sanctum 4 years ago from Southern United States

      This hub brought about interesting questions for me regarding nature vs. nurture. Many questions to ponder there, eh? I was a fairly, ignored kid as I was born into a family full of cracks & not wished for. However, from as far back as I can remember, I had a deep connection with other living things that verged on Over-sensitivity. While you & your friends had curiosities that had you pitting insects against one another, I made them mansions with separate rooms & would feed them. Is that a basic difference between the male & female tendancies toward nurturing? When on road trips, I used to cry at passing a dead animal on the side of the road for the pain they must have experienced at the time of their death & that they now lay there, uncared for, rotting. I had a friend that shocked the daylights out of me by going out into the street at night, finding toads & frogs & throwing them in the air to see if they would explode or at least die when they hit the pavement. I watched her (yes, her) do this to many of these little creatures until I became soo angry that I snatched her up and proceeded to whoop her ass! Sad to report, she grew-up to treat people in much the same way she did those helpless creatures, collecting aquaintances along her journey to lift-up at first, only to step on when she needed a boost! So, I'm glad you grew out of the way you treated those "lower life forms" & developed an understanding that all creatures have a place, a role in our world to fulfill & deserve respect. I only wonder what became of the young friends that participated in those actions, especially the one who used the slingshot to separate a mother from her pups. Dogs, as with most mammals & unlike insects, can show expression, pain, sadness... which are all things that even the youngest children can identify. So, I'd be truly interested to see the type of person this young boy grew into and how he treats others on a large scale. You're very luck for the changes that formed inside of you through time and learning as I believe that some people, are just born that way. I was going to ask: Are people that have more of a scientific thought process (like most males), more likely to display such behaviors when in their youth, than those who use more of their crative brain? The problem with me asking that question is that I have a very scientifically oriented mind & love biology & everything to do with animal science but had never displayed a curiosity to hurt or cause suffering to a living thing. Am I just the oddball? Thanks for the thought provoking hub!

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