Tender Ants


As long as I can remember, I have contemplated the question of why we are here. Why are humans on this earth? What is our purpose? What is my purpose?

Sometimes I have contemplated this question with intellectual curiosity. Sometimes with emotional intensity. My feelings while contemplating this question have varied: awe, inspiration, curiosity, confusion, despair, clarity, amusement.

Yet, I never doubt that we have a purpose… as individuals, and as a race.

While contemplating this question, I often feel that there is something just beyond human comprehension. All the science in the world, and all the religions, can not quite explain the universe, black holes, subatomic particles, bacteria, DNA… can not quite explain existence.

I once was describing this to a friend, and I told her that an analogy could be ants. When I look down at the ground and see ants, busy building their hills and houses, transporting food and supplies, busy, busy, busy, I think of us humans. The ants are not aware of me, or my life, or my power over them. Or if they have some awareness, they do not truly understand. The ants could not possibly comprehend human complexity and the larger world we inhabit, and the larger world we don’t yet inhabit. We are like these ants, busy with their lives, but unaware of something larger than us.

When I told this to my friend, she said, “Yes, we are like ants. But very tender ants.”

We humans are so, so tender. And this tenderness can cause us to armor ourselves, to build walls, to gather weapons. Or we can use this tenderness to connect and care. Care for each other, care for ourselves, care for the world.

Risk being tender.

Josh Neimark