I once put an ant farm in my play therapy room where child clients and I hid out from adults and had fun. The container was made of clear plastic so we could look in at the ants as they went about their business. We watched them eat and drink, watched them gather in groups and wave their antennae as if they were having conversations, watched them grieve over dead friends, watched them create tunnels for traveling. To the ants, the world existed within the confines of that sand-filled enclosure. They had no concept of life forms other than their own. While we could see them, the ants couldn’t see us. We were too huge to be apprehended by their ant-senses.
Older children, especially the brighter ones, inevitably asked the obvious question: what if human beings were like ants? What if we were being observed by some life form too huge for us to notice? I was always pleased when the question came up, not because I had an answer, but because the kids had the imagination to consider it.
I don’t know whether we’re being observed by some cosmic eye, but I do know that most of the self-important busyness of human life is no more significant than the daily life of an ant community. Ants fight vicious wars, they destroy the unhatched eggs of vanquished queens and carry the queen off as spoil. They go about all that violence with the solemn determination of human warriors. And like humans, when they kill their enemies they believe with all their little hearts they’ve done a good thing. But no matter how much killing goes on, ants continue to produce new life to continue the cycle.
I suppose the ultimate lesson to learn from ant farms and from human experience is that truth isn’t based on the dimension of a world, but on the persistence of life.