So, my usual browsing around the little patch of garden introduced me to this little fellow, almost perfectly camouflaged until I spotted him, of course. At first I thought he was just happy as could be, sitting there and waiting to be photographed, being such a diva that instead of posing and showing the photographer his “best side”, he was leaving it to the photographer to figure that out. But as I started taking a couple of pictures, at first being extremely ginger with the way I moved, never too suddenly lest he grass-hop away, but eventually being emboldened by his unflinching stare to even attempt to get close enough to take a picture, with the flash, he seemed to be a little more than content to be sitting there. It seemed to be a matter of death.
No sooner did I realize what was going on than huge waves of remorse washed over me for molesting such a helpless creature that was, literally, clinging to life, as symbolized by the branch. If he had a voice, and that is an obviously anthropomorphic reference to an audible, human voice, I’m sure I would have had to endure much rebuke. Instead, there I was, camera in hand, harassing this little guy who seemed to be too injured to even flee. He was beyond “fight or flight”. This was it.
The first thing I really should have noticed was the missing antenna on his head. I can’t believe that escaped my eyes, even though I was admiring the pastel shades and hues of his exoskeleton, and the luster and texture of it as well. But it brought me back to the point of how one recognizes pain and suffering in animals, or any life form that cannot emit a sound, let alone tell you that it is suffering from pain. Grasshoppers and crickets can chirp, but would they chirp in pain? Is not an insect’s first instinct when being hunted, like any other form of life, to be quiet and hope to be invisible to its predator? Then why would it emit a distress call at all when essentially cornered? And then, the larger, more daunting question came back to haunt me, “Do human beings only react to pain because of the sound of pain?” I’m afraid to answer in the affirmative, but all responses tend towards a resounding “Yes,” unfortunately. We react to domestic violence, physical abuse of animals when witnessed or experienced by the sound of the act in progress, and we jump in to help because somewhere deep inside, we know it’s the right thing to do. But much like Spike, the big bulldog from Tom and Jerry tells Jerry the mouse to “Just whistle” whenever he’s in trouble, we only ‘do the right thing’ when we hear it or see it. Even then, we seem to be able to ignore it and put it out of our minds when we do things like skin animals alive, or dice up their still beating hearts and echoing lungs.
I didn’t know what to do to try and help this guy, so I decided not to harass him any further. I left him alone and hoped that he would regain his strength and hop away, leaving him with an, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” When I checked the area later in the afternoon, he wasn’t around. Skeptical, needs-to-be-absolutely-sure ol’ me also checked on the ground and among some fallen leaves at the base of the custard apple tree that the grasshopper had been on, just in case he had succumbed to his injuries and fallen to the ground dead. If that was the case, his fellow insect brethren the ants would have made short work of him, tearing him down into manageable chunks and transporting him to his final resting place at the dinner table. But such is life, right? That’s what ants do after all, and if not for them and a bunch of other insects, this world would have been a garbage dump a long time ago. But here we are, conscious living organisms how look down upon grasshoppers and even ants, seeing them as pests and battling to exterminate them, when really they, no matter how much or how little noise they can make, they are the ones in sync with the rhythms of life. Makes me think of all the times that I have smiled and cuddled with pets who have come up to me, interpreting their wagging tails and long-drawn-out purrs to mean that they are happy to be there, never once considering all the pain they must be dealing with on their own because I didn’t care to look beyond the smiles I thought they were reciprocating. What gruesome murders we commit with smiles on our faces…