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.
This is an important part of everyone life and as it is not “seen” then it does become easy to forget about. We are at the end of the day all connected and in today’s society it does get lost amongst all the wires we use to connect ourself to our “reality”. However, it is not always easy to respond to the rhythms that we know we should follow. I do not have a garden to grow, or the money to buy organic. However, I have learnt, especially when it come to meat, that to be that cheap some corners must have been cut and that corner is usually the well fare of the animal itself. However, I do the best I can not to contribute any more to the suffering of Mother Earth but I’m not perfect.
Definitely – what is not seen is easily forgotten – wise words! And again, perfection is subjective. All I know is that for me, eating meat is unnecessary and wasteful. Some of the facts on eating meat can be found here – http://druidnetwork.org/ethical/food/cooking_meatfree.html. x
You put it very well, although not all of us can manage to obtain organic food stuffs or live as close to nature as we would wish. But I agree with the ideas about meat, my husband is a meat eater but has refused anything from many of the main supermarkets apart from Port. He wrote to several supermarkets after reading that most meat was slaughtered using Halhal methods with Muslem prayers said over the meat at slaughter! Pork is safe because its an unclean food for Muslems and Jews!
For those who do eat meat, why should it be dedicated to someone else’s Deity at death?
Interesting – I’m guessing that it is a kind of like putting a plaster on a child’s non-existant wound – it’s psychological! Maybe to stem the guilt even? I’ve just read a thought provoking discussion on TDN’s website here – http://druidnetwork.org/en/ethical/debate/meatorveg
Taking into account dwindling oil supplies, it considers the even further ethical implications of even a vegan diet that is mostly outsourced! So much to think about and so much to do about it now. x
I’m prepared to be corrected on this and present it as a discussion point rather than a firmly held view but I’d have thought that the tendency to pollute or consume your own environment was an inherent property of many (if not all?) individual species. For example, the evolution of photosynthesis by the Cyanophyta led to the destruction of most of life on earth, until some clever little protoctist evolved aerobic respiration to deal with the lethally high levels of O2. On a smaller and ongoing scale, look at the way that dung is colonised by a series of fungi, each one changing the conditions and depleting resources until it can no longer survive and is replaced by another, better-suited fungus.
So perhaps we’re not being unnatural in our destructiveness. What is undoubtedly unnatural is the scale on which we operate (whole planet) and, perhaps, the fact that we are conscious of the effects of our actions (yet still choose to ignore them). I say perhaps because I do share your views on the interconnectedness and energy of all things and I would not wish to misjudge or dishonour the spirit of any animate or inanimate entity by presuming to understand how its own energy operated.
I agree with nearly all your conclusions – it’s just that I wonder if humans are fundamentally different from any other life form; perhaps it’s not our “intention” that differs, perhaps we’re only more destructive because we have the means to be.
Interesting thoughts there! I think that it may be more a problem of choice – we choose to destroy on larger scales than is necessary. Destruction is part of life, most definitely. But in all things there must be a balance. The mushrooms may eat all the nutrients from the dung and change its form – but everything is in a state of flux or change. The mushrooms then die themselves, offering what they have to give to the soil. What we offer is plastic that doesn’t decompose – not as pleasant or beneficial to the environment. The fungi do not choose to do what they do, do they? Maybe they do!