Intentions: Metta or not, here they come!

by Kathryn Ann Steger, Peekskill, NY, The Buddhist Channel, August 31, 2007

With all this talk about good intentions, freeing animals and harming the environment I am reminded of something I did this summer.

While walking on a hot, dry gravel road next our train line this summer I noticed a worm writhing in the middle of this road. It looked dull and stuck. Immediately I thought I had to rescue this worm because clearly it was suffering from lacking its ideal home. Sadly, land by the Hudson River was fenced off by many yards, so I gently placed the worm on the dirt under lots of grasses and bushes, with a little spit to return some moisture to its skin. As it was a dry spell so too the earth was very dry, and I could only hope this shaded bushy area would be better for the worm.

I continued my walk feeling better that I had done my best to help relieve the worm's suffering. Then I noticed LOTS of worms on the gravel road, all pointed roughly in a north-westerly direction towards the river (and incidentally where the sun sets that time of year). The worms clearly were leaving the dry soil for an epic journey to more moist conditions near the river.

No matter that no worm would succeed due to desiccation, they were all well on their way toward their own perceived relief, in an obvious community of sorts. Except for "my" worm - I had set it back a huge journey.

Imagine if it understood that it's dry, hot migration was just eradicated by my "good" intentions.

The husband of a good friend is known to say, a little comically, "Speak to me!" when he comes across spiders and worms and other tiny invertebrates in trouble. Had I taken a moment and looked around, my spit might just have gotten this life through to nightfall, allowing better travel conditions and giving instant relief from desiccation.

I understand better that my "good intentions" are selfish and that I must strive to see all perspectives. Listening and observing. Why add more than that? “Good intentions” are just personal or group-sanctioned feelings which distort reality to favor isolated perspectives.

Listen. Observe. What more?