July 17, 2015

Release Life

Taking caterpillars off kale is gardening, rescuing caterpillars and putting them
on kale is Fangsheng.
Life is precious. It is Dylan Thomas's force that runs through the "green fuse" in everything, and it wants to continue. Nothing wants to "go gentle into that good night".

There is an ancient Chinese Buddhist practice called fangsheng, or “release life,” in which caged animals are released as a way of generating positive karma through acts of kindness. If this practice delivers I am due for a major karmic restructuring.

Usually adherents release relatively attractive life forms like birds or turtles. But even ticks have the life force running through their little bodies.

Since we live in the middle of a 500 acre farm containing large areas of forest and meadows, we are in prime tick habitat. Some tick bites can cause serious health problems, like Lyme disease. Since the spring I have been clearing our back patio of ticks to try and avoid bites.

I killed the first few immediately, but that didn't feel right, so I put the proceeding individuals in a small jar. It began to add up. What to do with them?

I thought of putting them out with the garbage, or flushing them down the toilet. I thought about pouring poison into the jar, but realized I don't have any poison. But then I began to think, "Who am I to remove the green fuse from these creatures?

Humans are the biggest pests on the face of the earth. We suck the life force out of Mother Earth as we puff up our environmental footprint several times over what is required. We are killing our host.

Should we be snuffed out because of that?

While I was thinking about the (slightly creepy) creatures in my jar, a comment that gave me further reason to pause was left on my post 10 Survival Foods You Can Grow.

"I had kale one year on my balcony. It is an amazing plant! Every time I found a little caterpillar with my bought vegetables it got to live in the kale. The caterpillars ate almost all the kale, then they cocooned and later turned into something else. And the kale, it just grew right back and I could go get some leafs almost all the way through winter."

It is one thing to save puppies and kittens, but caterpillars? Ticks? Yes. All life is sacred.

So off I went on my bicycle, with my tick bottle stowed in my backpack. A few kilometres ride into the countryside I stopped at the side of the road in a place far away from people and pets. I had my little (slight creepy) Fangsheng ceremony.

It should be noted that unscrupulous capitalist opportunists set up small businesses capturing the creatures released by well meaning Buddhists looking for a karmic boost. Bad karma, like so much of what the human pest does to suck the last bit of wealth out of the shell of our planet.

I don't think anyone will be recapturing my released ticks. They are free and fusing once again. Just not on my back patio.

“Old age should burn and rave at the close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of that light.”


  1. Anonymous7/19/2015

    I understand your reasoning, but. You got them away from your family, good; now they'll be infesting deer and other mammals, making them sick.


    1. I did think about that, but concluded that if I killed them, or released them, either way would have no impact on their overall population and effect on local wildlife. Wanton killing of things is what has landed humans in such a sorry state. We kill anything that gets in the way - it might start with ticks, but too often it ends with other humans.

      In order to address the tick problem we would have to address climate change. Experts say that the trend toward warmer temperatures is what is causing ticks to expand their territory, and to expand their population. Places that have never had ticks before have them now.

      And if we decide to kill, what about the human parasites? What do we do with them? Human caused mass extinction is happening now. Ticks didn't cause that.

      Like so many other challenges, it is a very complicated situation we have got ourselves into. I want to see if I can navigate the challenges without killing any more than I need to. I might be wrong in my approach, but am going with my gut feeling on this one.

      I appreciate your compassion for the deer and other mammals.

  2. Caterpillars are not always friends of farmers....But I believe we can control them in nature ways...

  3. Sorry I missed this when you posted it.

    I commend you for giving thought to how to handle the tick problem. When people as consciencious as you are give thought about what to do when something is a threat to them and finds a peaceful solution, well that gets my praise.

    If we are going to "control" anything, we'd be wise to get the human species under control. While we're at it we could round up all the corporations that are manipulating us to buy more crap so that the planet gets hotter and we have more overgrowth of things that can harm us.

    I appreciate the discussion here and your thoughtfulness in dealing with the ticks. There is no easy solution.

    When I lived in South Georgia, where field mice are numerous, they would get inside the house sometimes. It was such a problem there that when you walked into box stores the first thing you saw right in front Inside the door was a huge display of various methods to kill mice like poison, traps, etc.

    I wasn't comfortable with killing them so I borrowed a live trap, caught them and took them way out to a field where I imagined they would like to be. And I set them free. It wasn't easy.

    I look at it as supporting the natural food chain. Critical members of the food chain, Hawks and other raptors hunt in fields and eat mice. Some investigation might show that there are creatures where you live that rely on ticks. Maybe you were supporting the food chain by relocating them. That's a nice thought.

    Around here, people who live away from town sometimes get guinea fowl specially because they love to eat ticks. The unique birds are great foragers and great entertainment, perfect for a farm.

    You might have relocated the ticks to a place where they will be more appreciated!


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