As an animist, I see, honour and acknowledge that everything has a spirit, its own energy, its own sense of being, from beetle to bear, sequoia to sea, walnut to wind. That energy is what makes it what it is – I’m not a physicist by any means, and I barely understand it, but I do know that even in “inanimate” objects, molecules or atoms are moving at incredible speeds, giving the table I am writing on its density, for instance. All things hum, have a vibration, have an energy. My bathwater, treated as it is to remove bacteria, is still water – run off from the local reservoir, filled with the songs of rain and wind, of tears and urine, all the things that is “water”, since time began (if you believe in a linear version of time). The carrot from my garden is full of the energy of the earth, the sunlight and the water, packed with its own vitamins. My cats are fluid energy, predator and friend, singing their own songs of sleep and comfort, hunting and love, sunbeams and radiators. Everything is a collection of energy that forms a distinct pattern that we recognise as a chair, a computer, a loved one.
Seeing this energy, honouring it for what it is, it becomes less easy to dismiss things. The spider can no longer be crushed simply because it has found its way into our home. Household cleaning products that pollute our waterways are an abomination. Sweatshop factory clothing, clear-cut forests and unsustainable fishing become grievous crimes against the energy that is life. The food that we eat, what we consume, becomes sacred.
I recently read that people are trying to breed featherless chickens. To make it easier in the killing stages and get them ready for production into meat. This is me is a crime against life. It completely denies the nature of what a chicken is – it is no longer acknowledging a chicken as a chicken – it is merely a product, food, something to be consumed, a resource. Like a forest or a field of wheat, it is just a crop – its value is in the return of investment. It denies the acknowledgement of wheat as wheat – a precious form of life that contains the seeds of the next generation much as we humans and every other thing does. Its potential no longer lies in life, but in financial gain. This is a singularly human trait – to observe and treat other living things as such.
In honouring the food that we eat, we re-establish that connection to the sacred, to life itself. Life has no opposite – it simply is. Most people think that the opposite of life is death, however, death is a singular event, thus making birth the opposite of death. Life has no opposite.
As a vegetarian, I see the killing of animals for food in our modern, comfortable lives completely and wholly unnecessary. It’s a wasteful process, using up so much energy in its production. When compared to growing fields of wheat or corn, the yield is so much greater (because that is what is important to us now) and the cost is so much less, both financially and environmentally, especially if it is grown organically. I could go on about how the rainforest, the earth’s lungs, is being destroyed to make way for grazing cattle to fill an unnecessary predilection for eating meat, but that is easily found on the internet and other resources. A good starting point on ethical food can be found on the Druid Network – http://druidnetwork.org/ethical/food/index.html. Travel and research further, and you will be horrified at what you find out about the meat industry.
Growing as much of your own food as possible, being a part of the process, nurturing plants so that they may nourish you, and honouring the cycle, knowing that one day my body will nourish the soil as I lie in the ground with nothing but a winding sheet, to slowly decay and feed the earth – this is all part of the process of honouring the sacredness in all things. It is part of the exchange that has nothing to do with money – it is the give and take, the relationship with the earth that all living things do. It’s just us humans that screw that up, taking and taking, more than we need, giving nothing in return, crapping on our home – and even our crap has very little nourishment to it! Seeing the sacredness, learning about the give and take, is what my Druidry is all about – that is what any relationship is all about.
Words are clumsy when it comes to trying to describe the emotion I feel when I connect with the sacredness of all things – which I try to maintain throughout my life, every minute of every day. It is no easy task – in Zen, we can only do our best, for it is all that we can do. We are not Buddha. We lose that connection from time to time. The point is not to berate ourselves for this, but to learn from it, and re-establish that connection as often as we can, reminding ourselves over and over again how beautiful and wonderful the process of give and take can be. A true relationship is a gift. We should never take this gift for granted.