Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ahimsa for All the Cecil-the-Lions of the World

The Cecil the Lion issue happening in the news has had a predictably polarizing effect.  Here's what this swami thinks.  Below I quote a Facebook friend who prompted me to address the issue:

I don't understand the desire to kill an animal for sport. It's not an accomplishment; you've got a gun.

My response:

I understand it. I disapprove, but I understand. As a kid with a bb gun, a logical leap (even if based on poor logic) of testing my skills was shooting birds. The first time I ever shot a bird, it was a robin. When I had hit it, I ran up to it and picked it up. Seeing and feeling this other creature die in my hands because of me, my stomach sank and I knew everything about it was wrong. But I also had this conflicting sense of urgency to hone hunting and survival skills; for what reason I don't know. And it was more challenging and interesting to run around shooting birds than soda cans or whatever else. So a few days later, I had rationalized the activity and was back at it. Once you rationalize it and have done it a couple times, you get desensitized and can ignore your conscience pretty easily. Eventually, if you keep it up, you'll find yourself in a situation that where you're confronted with your conscience again. I imagine some people just carry on suppressing it and becoming increasingly numb. For me, it was when I inadvertently killed 3 baby birds. I stopped shooting birds after that. Then, after I was grown, I was visiting a friend who owned a farm/orchard, and he pointed out how the birds are destructive to his crops. At the time, I carried a handgun for self defense. So I suddenly had a way to rationalize killing things that wasn't at odds with my worldview at the time, and we went on an innocent bird killing spree. In retrospect, that was super fucked up, but that's what I did.

Presently, based on insights and convictions obtained through meditative practices, I am strongly opposed to killing any creature except in legitimate cases of self defense. Also, in learning more about the state of the world in an environmental sense, and the effects of our hubris as a species on that, it became clear to me that there are SO MANY pragmatic reasons not to even kill animals for food; especially the way that we, as a culture, do in the West (i.e. factory farms). This idea that our advanced state of evolution entitles us to behave this way is a logical fallacy. As I pointed out on another thread recently, karma will fuck you back. I like that, so I think I'll keep using it. Anyway, these attitudes and values will quickly annihilate our species if we insist on clinging to them.

To me, it seems to be a combination of a certain degree of numbness to one's inner/spiritual reality and a very particular variety of mental retardation that makes this an option for people. So, yes, I do think you're unevolved and stupid if you eat factory farmed meat, more so if you spout rhetoric defending that position, because there isn't a legitimate argument for it. I think subsistence hunting is wrong morally, but that's more of a belief than something I can prove empirically, so I won't name call if that's how a person rolls. I will hope that they somehow are opened up to greater levels of compassion though. And having said all that, I think it's worth softening the blow of claiming that the majority of people are literally suffering from a form of retardation by re-stating the fact that I exhibited the exact same variety of retardation until exactly the moment that I decided not to. In this case at least, it's a choice. The only important distinction between any of us is the compassion in our lives, and how that informs our choices. Info helps, but only inasmuch as it feeds our sense of compassion. And the good thing here is, since it all comes down to choices (of which there ARE definite right and wrong options), making the right choice offers the very real possibility of profound transformation and redemption.

An act of courage

If you eat meat, I don't think I'm better than you, but I KNOW I am making better choices than you. I know that your poor choice is negatively impacting you and me both, and I hope that you will come around.

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