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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 36 up with each other in a state of such inseparable interdependence is both a basic tenet of modern ecology and the primal structure and insight upon which Buddhist ethics are based. I once came upon a surprising and arresting statement by Charles Darwin about the common earthworm: “It may be doubted whether there are any other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly creatures.” I must have been fourteen or fifteen years old when I read this, but I somehow knew that what Dar- win said of earthworms might well be said of any creature on Earth. We cannot choose what life forms to share our planet with, selecting only those to our liking and dispensing with all the rest. Earthworms are particularly illustrative of the folly of ignoring the essential symbi- otic relationship of all life. Yet, I have found that there are people who simply loathe worms, finding them disgusting. My neigh- bor across the street, for instance, has been waging a decades-long war with the worms in her lawn. She complains that they leave “unsightly” droppings and that she’s found no effective way to be rid of them. What’s missing in her complaint is the fact that the reason her lawn stays so green and vibrant is because of the very earthworms she’s been struggling all these years to exterminate. Earthworms are nature’s preeminent com- posters. They convert dead organic matter into rich humus essential to the growth of healthy plants. Not only that, earthworms also “plow” the soil by tunneling through it, and these tunnels are the passageways Am I not, like these bewildered creatures, also caught out on the pavement? It’s not unreasonable to feel that way in a world encrusted with structures of our own invention.