Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hunting and Respect for Life

Hunting. I don't understand the urge to do it, but I don't condemn the practice. I acknowledge that, in the past, it was an important way to gather food for survival and that it remains the case in some less "developed" cultures.

I also understand the desire to be in the wilderness; the thrill of the hunt. It might be exciting to track an animal or to anticipate a chance to shoot...

When it comes to the part where one kills a beast that one really needs not kill, it gets a little more complicated for me. There must be a primal payoff in killing an animal... If not, why not just hunt it and then take a picture? To accept this fulfillment of the need to kill is to acknowledge something very dark about humanity. Whether that is okay is up to every individual to decide. I would never kill an animal; better said, I probably could not, except at the most urgent need (starvation, for instance).

I don't judge hunters. I respect the ones I have known, over the years, for their ethics in following certain codes; or for using the densely populated animals they kill for food and even for the making useful things. What I don't respect is this:

Life is life. This giraffe did not need to die. It is a trophy kill. It's not, as far as I know, food. Maybe someone can tell me whether giraffe is tasty. But, in any event, this picture is not okay. To mock anything in death is horrible. This young woman deserves the response she got, mostly as a result of Ricky Gervais on Twitter.

Legend has it that native Americans and indigenous people from many other cultures, were in the habit of respecting their kills -- even of thanking the animal for helping them to live. Once, on a survival show, I saw a guy dispatch a chicken. Before killing it, quickly and painlessly, the man held the chicken to calm it and then said, softly, "Thank you, my brother"  It was really very moving.

Everyone but the vegetarians and vegans of the world is in the same boat. To complain that animals are killed via hunting (in general) is hypocritical. There are good arguments for hunting over-populated animals and for eating those we kill. But to kill a majestic creature like a giraffe just to gain a trophy and then to mock the poor creature in death is arrogant and unsympathetic. It is profane and it is an affront to Nature. (I know -- people don't talk like that anymore. Maybe they should.)

It is a shame that the ethical hunters of the world have to suffer for the high profile lunk-headedness of this fool.

I do acknowledge something, though, more I think about it. It could well be that Francis blinked as the pic was taken (or that she was looking down at the cameraman and appears to have her eyes closed). This would make a difference, even though it might seem over-analysis to some; if she was pretending to be dead and she was smiling, she is more disrespectful. If it was a blink, this may only have been an attempt to show the size of her kill and not to be silly. If the pic is the former, it's not as bad, but, in my opinion, these pictures are just disrespectful anyway, going back to old Teddy Roosevelt posing next to his kill. I remember an old episode of The Waltons. John Boy killed a turkey and he celebrated a little. The father told him that to kill to eat was a necessity but killing was never, ever to be celebrated. That's what I'm talkin' about. And, it seems to me, that in the old hunter photos, they did make a special attempt to seem solemn -- the pics very rarely looked celebratory.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"A Fool in the Rain"

I went for my morning walk, as I always do, at 5:30 this morning. In a post some time ago, I referenced my determination to do this, whatever the weather.

This morning, it was raining heavily. People think I am crazy for walking in a downpour. I know this because, as I passed a guy who was getting into his car, he said, "What are you, crazy?"

So, I'm crazy. But, in the wider scope, is walking in the rain really that crazy? I mean, there are people out there who jump out of planes and who swim with sharks off of the Great Barrier Reef. Getting wet is not exactly "extreme" behavior. is a slight defiance of reason, isn't it?

There's even the old expression meant to criticize a person for having no common sense: "He doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain."

Maybe, though, we need small-and-often defiances of reason more than we need the occasional mad romp.

When Sting released his album of lute songs by John Dowland ("the Renaissance Paul McCartney," I once heard him called) he named it Songs from the Labyrinth. It seems that on one of Sting's estates, he has an old labyrinth. I mentioned it in a similar capacity, here. I also mentioned that Sting said that he sometimes walks the labyrinth by following the winding pathways and he sometimes crosses over them -- deliberately "breaking the rules." He mentioned how mentally freeing it feels to do so...

...likewise, as I walk the little labyrinth of my neighborhood. In the winter, I didn't have the sense to come in out of the cold. In the spring, it's the rain I choose to defy. No one is at risk; it's no great act of civil disobedience; I'm no daredevil. But, let's face it: there's a big sky up there in the morning darkness, full of deep, unseen clouds pouring their rain onto miles of the Earth. There's something cool about being one of the only ants out of the hill when the gutters rush with noise and the good, sensible people are on treadmills or still in bed. There's the feeling of tiny me pushing up against an unimaginably huge Everything. No one sees this; no one cares; but, it feels good.

Life's no stage show. It's life. Maybe defiance, instead of being all dramatic explosions, protest marches and middle fingers, ought to just be a quiet half-hour out in the rain, doing what one's mother told one not to do for so long.

And, you know, it made my morning coffee and snuggle session with my dog, afterward, that much better. Comfort is relative to discomfort, is it not?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dark Poetry: Man Defends Home with a Sword

The more comfortable we get, the more we tend to think. We're a pretty comfortable society, with plenty of time to think. When we think, these days, we tend to idealize ourselves. When we idealize ourselves, we deny reality -- profound reality.

We're having a hard time remembering that we are animals, I think. And I say "we are animals" with no derision; with no condescension. We are animals in the animal kingdom and we have many instincts and many natural tendencies that are part of the dark poetry of our minds and souls. These darker and less sophisticated instincts are just as profound as our capacity for love and for kindness. If Keats was right that "beauty is truth, truth beauty" then even the dark and more "animalistic" parts of us should be appreciated and respected...not denied or dismissed as sub-human. Sometimes I think we really are going to force ourselves into evolving into the Eloi.

For instance, this story. In summary, three guys broke into another guy's house and the guy defended his home by grabbing a decorative samurai sword and he went at them with it, slicing them up and forcing them out of his house. All of the men lived. The writer says:

Monday, April 13, 2015

"Soul" (Why I Don't Miss My Dad So Much)

Many of my fairly regular readers know that my dad passed away in December of 2013. Ever since then, I have been very much aware of people online and in life posting and talking about missing their deceased parents, every day -- even parents who have been gone for decades.  I see memes about the "hole" in the lives of children who lost their fathers and mothers and I feel a mix of guilt and puzzlement, because I don't feel that way.

Our view. A little bit of loss of the strings'
presence, at times, but a visual feast for the
boys' impressionable minds -- and mine.
Should I feel slightly emptier without my dad in the world? Strangely, I feel just the opposite.

I have long thought that people who have an extremely hard time with life after the normally-timed and non-tragic loss of their parents (that is, excluding those who lost their parents way too early or whose parents were eaten by escaped zoo animals) might be wrestling with regrets. I do miss my dad from time to time, but that is all. I sometimes miss his presence. For us, there was nothing left unsaid; there was no movie-plot father and son headbutting or dark competition between us. He loved and respected me and I knew it; I loved and respected him and he knew it.

So, there's that.

Corny as it may sound, though, real connections cannot be broken even by death. I think of Donne's great poem "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" and though his poem refers to romantic love (and even makes some bawdy references) the general idea can apply to familial love, too, especially when the speaker says:

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Path to Lifelong Happiness?

Olivier and Yorick
On Wednesday, I wrote about the fact that -- to cram things into a nutshell -- I seem to keep wanting to improve myself, musically, even though no one cares or is likely to reward me. Through a gradual series of thoughts since then, I realized that this kind of attitude might just be the secret to lifelong happiness.

Here's how the thoughts went. I saw a picture on Twitter of a French author who tried to kill herself (the tweet said) twice. I turned to my wife and said, as I have before -- which must be very comforting to her -- that I fully understand why people kill themselves. There have been days in especially long strings of mundane days, during which I thought: "This is it? This is my life?" I then imagine a person who feels trapped in these sorts of days; a person who sees no change coming; who has nothing to look forward to. I see, in short, Hamlet:

I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appeareth no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. 'What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?