Walmart and the Meaning of Ants


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And they discovered something very interesting: when it comes to walking, most of the ant’s thinking and decision-making is not in its brain at all. It’s distributed. It’s in its legs. Kevin Kelly  

I had to kill them. Despite the fact that I took a vow of nonviolence three years ago, I had no choice. They were invading my home and posing a health threat to my family.

For those of you who follow me (Traci) on Facebook or Twitter (if you don’t, you can follow me here), you’ve probably been following my ant saga. If you haven’t been following the drama, I moved into a new home three weeks ago and since then have been overtaken by ants. I tried everything I could think of, but finally broke down and killed them.

But this blog isn’t a “how did I kill the ants” blog. This is bigger than ants. (Get it? Ants are small?) You see, I believe that everything in life…. EVERYTHING…has meaning. A lot of folks don’t subscribe to that train of thought, but I do. So when I had this giant ant infestation, I knew it had a deeper meaning.

I researched the spiritual meaning of ants. Most places talked about them in positive terms–teamwork, industrious, strong, able to move things bigger than themselves. But, no, I thought. This is not a positive interaction. This is a strong, negative message.

In my quest to find organic ant poison (so I could do as little damage as possible) I went to Walmart. It was here that I realized The Meaning of Ants. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Walmart. (Well, yes I do, but that’s another blog.) It’s not anything specific to Walmart. These observations apply everywhere–in stores and restaurants and sporting events and malls. Pretty much everywhere there are “people.”

It started in the parking lot. People were lined up waiting for someone to pull out of their space so they could take it. Not a big deal unless you look a few feet down where there were dozens of open spaces just slightly farther from the door.

I got inside and saw people wandering the maze that is the aisles of the stores. I looked at the products on the shelves. I heard them talking on their phones and watched them load their carts. People were walking single file through the aisles loading up with food and other items. They stood in lines and then went to their cars to bring the food home. Waiting in lines in the parking lot, walking in lines in the store, waiting in lines to check out…These are not weird things or different and are things that I do when I shop, too. But perhaps because I don’t shop at Walmart I was like an alien on a foreign planet and was able to observe things on a different level.

Observing the Walmart shoppers, it hit me. Most people are like ants! We just follow the people in front of us, never questioning or challenging assumptions. We buy into what “they” tell us will make us happy. Get good grades, be a nice person, go to college, get a good paying job, buy this car and this TV and take your vacations here. Eat this food and watch these sports and wear these clothes. Believe this religion and vote for this candidate. Again, there is nothing wrong with ANY OF THAT. If it’s your CHOICE.

But most of us don’t choose. We do what we see everyone else doing. And then we’re disappointed, frustrated, and angry that we have the same outcome as everyone else. More than 35% of Americans are now obese. Almost 44 million people are living in what the US government deems “poverty.” More than 50% of marriages end in divorce. Most people have one or more chronic illness or acute disease. In the words of the oft-imitated Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you, there?”

I left Walmart with no ant spray and almost in tears. It doesn’t have to be this way. We make choices and decisions all day long. We choose how and where to spend our money. We choose what to say to the people we love. We choose the level of integrity we act out. And, if we are aware enough, we can question our own thoughts. Most people are living lives of quiet desperation (some not so quiet) because they keep making the same choices without even questioning them.

And the heartbreaking thing is that most people aren’t even conscious enough to be aware that they’re doing it. They just live their lives the way “everyone” around them does and think that it’s normal and that there’s nothing they can do about it. They just aren’t “lucky” enough to “get a break.”

NO! I wanted to walk around and shake them on the shoulders and say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” But I’d get arrested. And then the ants would win.

Instead, I will do my best to help one person at a time. Larry and I created Decision Systems International so that we can help the people who want to stop living like ants, mindlessly living life and being miserably stuck when the choices they make lead to a life that isn’t authentic. Like the old story of the boy walking on the beach throwing back the starfish, we may not be able to help everyone, but we will help save the lives of those whom we are able to teach.

“The ants are bad” The Bear “The ants?” Tahir “Do not be fooled. They look very small, so harm you don’t think of then at all. Then years. Then one day you wake up, and your home has fallen down.” Osman. ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights

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