Back in college I came across the Hindu concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence in English speak. Because I’m an evil straight white male and “cultural appropriation” is apparently my hobby, I fell in love with it instantly. The majority of problems in the world, I figured, were the result of violence. I decided I’d no longer contribute to those problems and promised to never again intentionally harm another living being. It sounded like a great idea at the time. Turns out, it’s really difficult. I still practice it today, but every now and then I think I’ve made a huge mistake. These are the things that will inevitably happen when you decide to live as a tree-hugging pacifist:
1. Your significant other will hate you.
Here’s something no one wants to hear: “Oh my god, there’s a spider in the bathroom! Come kill it!” In this situation, the extent of my capabilities is to transport the little guy outside. This requires letting it crawl onto my hand, or gently guiding it into a cup or other random container. I’m happy to do it for tiny house spiders, even if it is an annoying process. But if you think I’m picking up a spider any larger than a nickel or hairier than a lumberjack, you’re out of your fucking mind. I’m not going anywhere near that thing. The result is an unusable bathroom, a sense of failure, and being called a “pussy” multiple times. I’ve actually been screamed at by a girl for refusing to kill something that was either a tarantula or a small, eight-legged dog. It only gets better when the creepy fucker disappears and later shows up in the bed.
2. Pests will take full advantage of you.
Apparently insects can either sense when you pose no threat to them or just prefer the taste of peace-lovers. If a mosquito lands on me, all I am permitted to do is lightly blow on it or poke it in the hopes it will be enough of an inconvenience that the asshole just gives up. They never give up, and I’m usually forced to watch a creature one millionth my size lazily feast on my blood like a fat dude with a milkshake. I’m also almost positive that they send out some massive broadcast of “Free Buffet Here!” because every mosquito in the state converges on my location. I’ll probably die of malaria. Bees, gnats, and ticks must get this message too, since I can’t seem to go to a park without becoming the Pied Piper of annoying goddamn bugs. So many things you want to kill, so many things you can’t.
3. Education becomes a priority.
Not necessarily because you’re a nerd, but because if you live in a wooded area like I did, ignorance could literally kill you. If you find a snake in your garden, the classic response is to pretend to be JLo in Anaconda and kill the bastard. Nonviolence requires that you find a fruity hippy solution, like once again relocating the animal. But you better know the distinctions between a garter snake and a copperhead if you don’t want to be spending your afternoon in the hospital. Or, returning to the spider example, you’ll want to know what a tiny brown recluse looks like before you learn about necrosis by having your finger fall off. Research is important when you’ve decided to live in harmony with critters, since a lot of those critters don’t give a single fuck about harmony and will straight-up murder you if you get too close.
4. You will find new ways to deal with anger.
Have you ever noticed that actively trying not to be pissed about something infuriating makes you even more pissed off? It’s just how anger works. At first I thought pacifism meant I couldn’t or shouldn’t ever be angry, so I attempted to bottle it up or ignore it. This strategy never goes as planned, and I ended up losing my temper quite a bit back in college. Anger isn’t something that can be simply dismissed from our lives, and I bet even the Dalai Lama gets pissed off every now and then. About what, I have no idea. Pacifism instead taught me how to accept and deal with anger in a healthy way for me personally, like focusing it into something productive or just ranting to myself like a schizophrenic idiot until it’s out of my system.
5. You learn to keep your mouth shut.
I was writing at a bar about a year ago, just minding my business, when a woman approached me and asked what I was working on. We got into a pretty decent conversation about poetry, films, other pretentious shit, etc, and I ended up blatantly hitting on her. Her boyfriend noticed, was shockingly not happy about it, and confronted me. One of the great joys of alcohol that I keep forgetting about is that it annihilates your inhibitions. I decided to run my sarcastic mouth and use the best of my filthy vocab gems, including some choice comments about his obvious Italian heritage. Pro-tip: using ethnic slurs is always an excellent way to request an ass-whooping. Later, when I went out for a smoke, he followed and proceeded to turn me into a living Everlast bag. All I could think the entire time was “Do not fight back. Buddha would not fight back.” Buddha also never would have run his mouth like a douchebag in the first place, so I completely deserved it.
6. You will have a philosophical meltdown.
I like seafood too much to become a full-fledged vegetarian. Some people say that’s hypocritical and mistakenly think I care. Sushi is a gift from the Gods, and who can say no to lobster? I don’t kill the fish I eat, so that’s my lame justification for it. But every now and then I’ll be faced with the moral dilemma of “Is my eating this poor salmon warranting its death?” Or inversely, “If I don’t eat it, will its death just be in vain?” Shopping for groceries can turn into an existential nightmare. “Surely buying this can of tuna doesn’t make me a monster. Right?” Then there’s the realization of “using antibacterial hand-soap is kinda mass murder” that will completely ruin your day. “I just pooped, but if I wash my hands, I’m technically killing the bacteria that just want to live…WHAT DO I DO?!” Like any moral concept, pacifism doesn’t always make complete sense and constantly requires some lame philosophical justifications.*
7. You start analyzing how you treat yourself.
I’m not exactly the healthiest person I’ve ever met. I smoked for 7 years, had my fair share of careless, nearly-fatal accidents, and every now and then I’ll wake up on a Sunday convinced that it’s not a hangover, it’s the angel of death. But ever since this whole nonviolence thing started, I’ve been a lot more critical of the choices I make concerning my well-being. If I’ve promised to never harm a living creature again, doesn’t that include myself as well? It’s an annoying question that I struggled with every time I bought a pack of camels or slammed down way too many Jager Bombs. It’s a slow process of improvement (very slow), but I know it’s eventually going to result in finally treating my body like I should: with compassion. At the end of the day, that is the best part of being a wimpy pacifist.
*I totally wash my hands after I poop.