July 31, 2014

In Their Heart of Hearts

I was driving behind a person in a compact car one morning, and there was a lot of unusual debris on the highway, due to a previous night’s rain. As I was driving along, I began to notice that the car in front of me was pretty much oblivious to the debris on the road: it hit puddles, ran over tree limbs, bumped through piles of wet leaves, etc., as if hitting those items were neither destructive to the vehicle or distasteful for the driver.

And then the car swerved out of its lane in order to avoid running over the tiny mashed carcass of some unrecognizable species of animal.

And I got to thinking…

What is it in human beings that causes them to detour, when they can, around animal carcasses on the highway? Even people who eat animals tend to avoid making contact with them, when they can, and even if those carcasses are tiny and already flattened beyond recognition, any semblance of blood or entrails, for example, they are often noticed and avoided.

What is it about human beings, even eaters of animal flesh and wearers of their hides, that causes them to give me a blank stare every time I ask them if they would like to accompany me to a nearby slaughterhouse?

I think that deep down within us, we care about not inflicting pain. Or suffering. We care about not seeing bloodshed. Oh, yes, we justify our bloody deeds in order to defend ourselves for committing them, but we don’t really wish it to be part of who we are.

I’ve always felt that way; I guess I always have. Maybe because it’s true of us and maybe only because I need to believe it about human beings in order to get up every morning and present all of them with the realities they would otherwise wish not to know or see or hear about — because I believe their knowing will change their behavior.

Upon reflection, I think human beings do care. I’ve used this analogy before: if I invited a group of people over to my house to prepare dinner from a garden I had kept in the backyard, my guests would join me in preparation of that dinner with a feeling that would differ had I invited them over to help me hoist a living calf and bleed it over a concrete pit. Although there might be some — some macho types — who could be present for such a killing (or even commit such a killing as some human beings can and do), their gut feeling about the process would be different than if we were cutting up carrots and boiling rice. There would be some steeling of the emotions.

But imagine a time, thousands of years ago, when human beings actually lived in and with nature, when we held animal life in awe, when animals inspired us toward thought and learning, when we felt we belonged to this earth.

Imagine such a time when human beings were more like you and me and a lot less like, well, human beings. Imagine vegetarians as the majority!

Actually, I’m sure you do imagine such a time, but I’m certain you imagine it at some date into the future, when human beings will have come to realize that the only way to live in harmony with one another — as genders, “races,” and one species among many others, and to clean up their act (as well as their world) — will be to elevate the status of animals and nature, to a place it was before.

If we can learn more about our early history, during times in which we held all life sacred, and we also learn the details of how, as a species, we jumped the tracks those many thousands of years ago and put human life above all other, then we will be able to put the peace train back on schedule.

Let’s begin — and keep on — reminding human beings of who they were and who they really are.

This idea is a unique and innovative and long-overdue — as well as a progressive — one in the continuing struggle to fight the good fight.

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