The ants are currently under control for the moment, but reflection on this whole adventure has left me with a few interesting thoughts. I know it is a total cliché to tell a huge story of overwhelming adversity and then follow it up with some moralistic tripe about ‘what we’ve learned,’ but bear with me. Truth be told, what little I learned isn’t so life altering and I find myself left with more questions than I have answers. So, here’s what I did learned:
Cinnamon and ants do not mix.
Not quite a life altering realization about the inner self, but rather a simple factoid found on numerous websites and books. Suffice it to say, cinnamon did become my weapon of choice in fighting the war against these ants. The spice is actually quite effective at repelling them. Actually, I should clarify that, it doesn’t really repel them per se (I know, because I tested it with one of their POWs). As I said in my previous post, ants use scent trails to find their way. Cinnamon simply overpowers the scent of their trails. An ant placed in the center of a spice-covered patch of carpet simply wanders around aimlessly, looking for trail that will lead it home. After some aforementioned experimentation, I liberally sprinkled cinnamon along their trail, which I finally located.
Problem solved, at least until I can get my hands on some stronger stuff.
Cinnamon aside, I think what got me the most about this whole experience was the budding realization that how I perceive the world is not always 100% accurate. To explain, let’s look at the eye for a moment. The human eye is an amazing organ. It can distinguish about 10 million colors and can distinguish between two lines a mere 1.75mm apart from a distance of 20 feet. So, with a 1mm long ant at 6 inches, one would think that finding the ants would be easy. Not so.
The human eye has two types of receptors, cones and rods. Cones detect color, while rods only detect light, but are super sensitive. They are arranged inside the eye so that there are more rods along the periphery of your vision than in your direct line of sight. Since they have this arrangement, your peripheral vision tends to detect movements better. When you’re 6 inches from carpet and see movement out of the corner of your eye, you turn your head to see what’s there. Most of the time it turned out to be nothing. As amazing as our visual systems are, they are still prone to errors.
Then there was the little matter of the psychosomatic skin crawling. After being on the receiving end of a few ant bites, any little bit of fluff on my body was immediately perceived to be an ant. My skin has, and still is, on high alert and occasionally feels as if I have been bit even when I have not. It’s all in my mind, and while I haven’t devolved to the level of delusional parasitosis, I still get creepy, crawly sensations all over my body from time to time.
That said, one of the realizations that came to me during this experience was my use of anthropomorphism when dealing with the ants. For those that don’t know, anthropomorphism is when you assign human qualities and characteristics to non-human objects. In this case, I envisioned the ants as enemies, harboring ill will toward me, and generally scheming and planning my demise. None of that is true in the least. I know that the ants are merely following instinctual behavior patterns and their attacks were merely the result of their natural functions. But somewhere deep in my mind, I found that it was a bit easier to deal with them if I gave them some of these characteristics.
Part of me wonders if anthropomorphism is a coping method that we have as humans and if it is in our nature to treat other objects, inanimate or not, as we would treat other human beings. I know several examples from my own life, and from others I know, where I’ve treated an inanimate object like a human. One only needs to see me arguing with my computer or my car to know this is a common occurrence, and not one that I haven’t given much thought to until now.
I’m aware of research that suggest treating pets as humans may be a way of reducing stress by simulating low-level social engagement. I’ve also read studies that seeing someone as an enemy makes it easier for someone to harm another. Whether or not these studies translate over to my personification of ants as enemy soldiers is unknown. All I know is that I’ve won the battle and soon, the war!