Zen and the Art of Mosquito Murder

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The neighbour was burning leaves again. Driving us crazy. ‘What’s the point of having a garden,’ I said, ‘if we can’t sit out in it?’

‘If he does it again, I’m calling the police.’ When it comes to the neighbour, Carole’s fury runs even deeper than mine. The smoke, she says, gets into the sheets on the washing line. At times it’s so thick we can hardly see our beautiful Aleppo pine.

Bruce, an old schoolfriend come to visit, smiled and nodded in that soft, placid way of his. He’s been a practising Buddhist for thirty years, and apart from his bony, ascetic appearance, everything about him is placid. I watched him watch a frenzied Carole massacre mosquitoes – he didn’t say anything, but it troubled him.

I found that intriguing. ‘Yes, I know all life is precious,’ I said, ‘but a mozzie? You just let it bite you? And turn the other cheek, I suppose.’

‘Oh, no,’ he said, pouring himself more wine (the asceticism only goes so far). ‘If it was really bothersome, I’d kill it. In a Buddhist way, that is.’

‘You mean there’s a Buddhist way of killing? Meditate for an hour first? You’d be bitten all over by then.’

‘No, quite the opposite, really. One sharp slap and think no more about it.’

That was a couple of days ago. Now we’re sitting in the garden again, and a glorious Indian summer bathes the Aleppo pine in a golden glow. The mozzies are out in force, though, and Carole’s getting all jumpy. ‘Still,’ she says. ‘At least there’s no smoke this evening. That’s a blessing.’

‘Oh, I don’t think we’ll be bothered by smoke again,’ I say. ‘That problem’s settled now.’

‘Really? You called the police? That’s good!’

‘The police? Good heavens, no.’ I smile placidly. ‘That’s not very Buddhist.’

Thursday Interview: Ozzy the Mozzie

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– Do you know you’re possibly the most detested creature on earth? How does that feel?

– Couldn’t care less, frankly. Why? You think it should bother me?

– You kill almost a million people a year through malaria. You cause agonizing pain through dengue fever and chikungunya. Not to mention all the nasty itches. I mean, there’s absolutely nothing nice about you. And you don’t care?

– Look, I’m a mozzie, you’re a person, right? We don’t have the same agenda. Or rather we do – survival. Same game, we play it differently, that’s all.

– I beg to differ. For you it may be survival, but we have other aspirations. Love. Curiosity. Self-fulfilment. All the things which give life a meaning and which you don’t even understand.

– Well, if I were you, I’d think a bit more about survival. Because the way things are going, we’ll still be around when you’re long gone, destroyed by your own stupidity. You’re so arrogant, it makes my blood boil. Or rather yours, since I’ve just bitten you.

-Hah! Think that’s funny, do you? Well, look what I’ve got here. One press of this and psscht! You’re a goner.

– So you can kill me but I’m not allowed to kill you. Maybe just a hint of double standards?

– Not at all. We’re a higher form of life, as I’ve said.

– Oh, yes, very la-di-da, with your Mozart and your Walt Whitman and your Einstein. How about Wayne Rooney? For a higher form of life, leaves a bit to be desired, I’d say.

– Well, at least he scores goals. More than can be said for you.

– This conversation’s getting silly. I fly, I bite, I transmit disease. And I might add that when it comes to malaria, you transmit it even more than I do. Besides, if you were so clever, you’d have eradicated me by now, or developed a better immune system. Instead of which, I’ve developed resistance to your drugs. You’re never going to win this war, you know. And it is a war because there’s no way we’ll reach a compromise. (Pssht!). We’re going to be enemies … until  either you… die or … else … uh …

– So much for you, Ozzy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now at least I can get back to work without you interrup –

– Bzzz! Hey, you just killed Ozzy. You know what? I happen to be his cousin. He told me you taste pretty good, so I’ve been tucking in. Already got a bellyfull – delicious! Name’s Mitch the Itch, by the way.