It’s alright for ants

An ant walked past my foot just now while I was writing. “It’s all right for ants,” I thought, “they know what they need to do.” Then I saw a spider, actually walking along, following the ant. “It’s all right for spiders,” I thought, “spiders don’t have to work out what they are supposed to be doing. They don’t have to weigh up the pros and the cons. Maybe they shouldn’t be wasting their time writing things on the internet and should be instead sorting things in the loft, because the baby might wake up any moment?” But ants and spiders don’t get a choice do they? They just have to do what they have to do. They can’t just throw off the shackles and have fun. They are programmed to just do what they need to do.It does sound great sometimes, to know exactly what you need to do, sometimes the pain of decision-making is a hard burden. Such a hard burden, some days, that you don’t decide to do anything – at least it is for me. And, more and more, I seem to find myself feeling guilty for enjoying myself. Even though my definition of enjoying myself is usually more creative than others; my version of relaxation is to write an article, present a live internet radio show or to send somebody cake over the internet.

Of course the spider has probably eaten the ant and ants are in a hurry, male ants only last a few weeks*, spiders only last a few years.*** They don’t really have time for much existential angst. But being human, of course, I do. Growing up, I never considered myself a hedonist compared to my friends, but now, as I watch them grow up I wonder if I am actually closer to it than any of them. I always attempt to do the things that make me happiest, but then surely that’s what everyone does. Now I am starting to feel guilty for it, is this growing up?

Katherine and I discussed things before we decided to have a baby, we didn’t want to have to grow up, but we wanted to have a baby. Surely, having a baby meant having to grow up? All of a sudden you are responsible for somebody else, you can’t just carry on doing things just for you. Of course that part is true. But what we didn’t want was to ever be the kind of people who would say, “I couldn’t have my dreams because I had you”. What we needed to be sure of was that one of our dreams was for us to have a child.

And we chose that… There’s not a lot of time to choose things if you’re a male ant, maybe it’s not so great for ants.

*Queen ants can live up to thirty years, worker and soldier ants** one to three years.

**Workers and soldiers are females only.

***Tarantulas and other big-uns can live up to 25 years in captivity, but little garden and house spiders only last a few years.

3 thoughts on “It’s alright for ants

  1. Nick Ollivere says:

    Interesting, I always thought you were a ‘there’s no such thing as free will’ kinda guy….

  2. Heh… I wondered about that, but I thought it would cloud the issue. Perhaps you could reread the passage replacing every instance of chose with, “we pretended to ourself that we chose”.

    Yes we are of course no different than the ant in our capacity to choose, but we convince ourselves that we have the choice.

  3. Nick Ollivere says:

    Ah, I thought so, but you’re right that would’ve been too confusing! I was reminded of the lyric ‘what I choose is my choice’ which would in fact be better rendered as ‘what I choose is not my choice’.

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