A bit of a sad tale

So, yesterday, this Monarch was on the pavement directly behind — and in the path — of the rear wheel of my trusty Highlander (There Can Be Only One). 

Monarchs have been in Hawaiʻi since the mid-1800s and unlike the ones on the mainland, these do not migrate. Likely, that’s both because of the distance and the unfavorable trade winds. 

Don’t quote me on that as I’m not — nor have I ever been — a Royalist.

I put my gym bag and coffee in the car and, grabbing my trusty Note 8, I hoped the butterfly would still be there for me to photograph.

Obviously, something was wrong . . . no way butterflies (unlike Hummingbirds and other birds and a few lizards) would let me get this close. Something was wrong. 

In fact, my fear was shortly confirmed. The butterfly tried to move but stumbled. 

This was now a life-and-death situation. The Monarch was obviously dying . . . should I put it out of its misery? Surely — in its state — I would want someone to put me out of my misery and what better way than to be instantly squashed by a ton and a half of rolling metal?

Alas, I couldn’t do it . . . I gently picked it up and put it on the retaining wall, next to some flowers. 

By the way, you can click on the photos for a larger view (there is no SmugMug gallery). Note that the fuzziness of the wing pattern when viewed up-close is a feature of the design and not the fault of the phone-camera or photographer. 

I watched it for a few minutes and it seemed a bit rejuvenated. I left it to its own devices.

Sadly, a couple of hours later, on our return from bulking up, this greeted me . . . 

At first, I thought it was dead, but no . . . the body was moving but it no longer had the strength to hold the wings in a vertical position. 

Once again, the thought came to mind that it would be merciful to put it out of its misery. And, there was no doubt now that it was misery. 

It was an untenable situation . . . 

On the one hand, suffering can only register on a conscious mind. Practically speaking, the Monarch was not suffering. There are certainly scientific and philosophical arguments to be made but my conclusion is that for suffering to exist, one has to have a measure of self-awareness. 

Not so for pain (depending on how one defines pain). Animals can certainly “feel” something for they react. We can discuss the implication of that reaction, but the organism is reacting.  

Getting back on point, I now had to weigh the lack of suffering of the Monarch versus the psychic impact of me squashing a bug. 

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that its life fading was not causing it suffering but me squashing it would stay with me and add yet another scar among many.

I laid the Monarch on some vegetation, snapped a photo, and walked away. 

Mind you, it didn’t — nor does it — absolve me from some sort of burden. Ergo, this post. 

Hours later, when I went out to get the mail, it was definitively dead. As dead as it would have been if eaten by a bird or splashed on the windshield of a speeding car. 

There’s no lesson to be learned from this . . . it’s just another instance in the constant struggle of life and death and the part we play in it, willing or not. 

As an aside, I had some meat for dinner that same evening . . . along with mashed potatoes and green beans. The meat had been butchered somewhere else, out of my sight. We waited in anticipation as we barbecued the pieces of flesh. I also never saw the potatoes as they were already mashed — someone else ripped them from the ground (alive), other people shipped them, and other people peeled them (alive) and mashed them up after boiling them (alive). The green beans we boiled alive on the spot until they were dead. There was also bread which I enjoyed because of the sacrifice of wheat seeds and some yeast cultures.  Never gave any of it a second thought. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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