“The quality of mercy is not strained. It falls to the ground like the gentle rain.” – William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
The best way to shoot a squirrel is with a camera. When I was a young man I used to hunt squirrels with a 12 gauge shotgun. Now that I have grown older and have been influenced by Buddhism I have lost my taste for killing.
Once, when I was a teenager visiting my grandfather’s farm in Kentucky, I was out early one morning with the shotgun. As I came upon the grainery in the early morning mist I noticed a motion just to my right. A groundhog had just climbed a fence post and was sitting on top of it just as pretty as you please.
Well, I drew a bead on the varmint and slowly cocked back the hammer of the single action shotgun. I had him in my sights and I wrapped my finger around the trigger and took a deep breath as I prepared to pull the trigger. But something happened at that moment. I began to think about what a cute little feller he was and he was well known to the family and everyone would be unhappy if I shot the creature.
I looked down the barrel of the gun and in my minds eye I shot the groundhog but I could not bring myself to actually kill he beast. I slowly applied the web of my right thumb to the cocked hammer of the gun and gently released it to the non-firing position. The ground hog ran off to live another day.
I had an epiphany that day. One might say a moment of clarity. And I learned a valuable lesson that day about the use and abuse of power: It is more powerful to exercise mercy by granting life than it is to execute an innocent creature who only wants to live as much as you do. I never killed again after that.