The Death of a Squirrel

(Trigger warning: descriptions of severe animal injury.)

Today a squirrel was hit by a car a few feet away from me while I was walking down the side walk.

Three of its legs kept twitching. I thought it had a broken leg. I came out of my stupor and went to grab it and pull it to the curb (out of the traffic). By the time I touched it, it had stopped twitching. When I moved it, there was a small pool of blood beneath it, and I saw that the other side of its face was damaged, with an eye popping out.

I think it must have died fast. Perhaps it was put unconscious immediately by head trauma. If not, it seems likely that it was by the end of its twitching, which I don’t think lasted for more than half a minute. It must have been horrifically painful, if it experienced it.

I stood there for a few minutes and got strange looks from passers by. Then I went to a restaurant and washed my hands in hot water (I never touched any blood, but…)

I felt really intensely upset for a bit, but half an hour later when I met up with someone to talk, I was mostly feeling better. It was disturbing how quickly I got over it. Now that I’m thinking about it again, I feel more upset. And I’m glad for that.

One of my cousins, a creature that breathed, and felt, and saw, and lived is dead. It’s dead because a driver was careless or without care. This should cause me to feel upset.

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4 Responses to “The Death of a Squirrel”

  1. Zack M. Davis Says:

    It was disturbing how quickly I got over it. Now that I’m thinking about it again, I feel more upset. And I’m glad for that. One of my cousins, a creature that breathed, and felt, and saw, and lived is dead. [...] This should cause me to feel upset.

    The problem with this is that if you feel obligated to be as upset about the suffering and death of all sentient creatures as much as you felt for that squirrel, you’d have to spend your entire life grieving. Actually, it’s much worse than that: a mere human lifetime of grief can’t begin to account for the full horror, which includes not just all the other squirrels hit by cars, but also the humans dying from poverty, warfare and disease, the mutilation and slaughter of animals on factory farms, the starvation and predation of animals in the wild, people in the past, people in the future, people in other Everett branches

    Since our brains literally can’t represent how bad things really are (and perhaps we should be grateful for that, for the sake of making our own lives seem worth living), perhaps a wiser policy would be to feel upset only insofar as feeling upset motivates you to take actions to make the universe slightly less terrible.

  2. Brian Tomasik Says:

    Your compassion is wonderful, Christopher! Of course, Zack is right that sadness is beneficial only up to a point, and sometimes it can be debilitating, but I think most people in the world are too little upset by the immense amounts of suffering by others.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    there are some interesting approaches to addressing these questions in books about the dalai lama. eg a combination of compassion and also ability to let go of things.

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