Monday, December 24, 2012

A Prayer for Chickens

Here I reflect on how we might think of what to do about the plight of chickens in factory farming.  I ask whether factory farming is "wrong" and conclude that based on my experience and understanding, it is, and that it is on the verge of being condemned as immoral by the society at large.  This video was inspired when I was recently passed on the road by a truck full of chickens on the way to a slaughter house. This led me to a sense of prayerful reflection.  How might we reduce their suffering?  I suggest we can do this not through feelings of guilt and despair, but through a sense of interconnection between the beauty within and the beauty without, in chickens, and in all of life.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dare To Rise To Compassionately Care for All Beings

Here is a music video I produced that speaks to the wondrous interconnection of all life.  By truly seeing and feeling, we humans can dare to rise to compassionately care for all!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starlings are Startling




The common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) evokes definite reactions in people. Described as a "Marmite" bird, "you either hate them, or love them."  In the United States they are frequently disliked.  Often considered a nuisance, where introduced they compete with native birds for nest cavities and food, consume agricultural crops, and with their immense winter flocks can soil urban areas and endanger air planes during takeoff and landing.  They also have benefits: they consume agricultural insect pests, imitate human speech, are dazzlingly beautiful, and their large flocks display incredible patterns in the sky (known as murmurations).



Although they may be plentiful in some areas outside of their historical range, their numbers have dropped dramatically in Britain.  In the last year the population there in the last decade as dropped by over a third, and by 80% since 1979.  "In total,  40 million have vanished from the European Union since 1980 - at a rate of 150 a hour - with the crash triggering concern about its future as a widespread and familiar bird." In some countries, they are listed as vulnerable or threatened.  The reason for their decline is unknown, and research is currently underway to understand this species' ecology and the threats to its existence.

The world would lose something splendid if these birds were to diminish before our eyes.  I admit to being bored by them in the past, their apparent sootiness doing nothing to cheer one's mood in the dim city winter days.  But upon closer inspection and introspection, I have yp agree with Mary Oliver who in her poem, Starlings in Winter, describes how starlings can show us the way to improbable beauty.


Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

Common starling (photo by Philip Heron)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Slime Mold Has Arisen

 This Easter morn I arose to see what surprises I might award. Acting as the mid-morning bunny I placed brightly colored eggs and chocolate rabbits on the dining room table.  My actions I guess were not all that unexpected. 

 But what awaited me outside was startling.  As part of my morning ritual, I looked out over the gopher tortoise mound in my back yard. The tortoise was not yet awake, but something else caught my attention.  There on top the sand was what looked like a bright yellow piece of plastic.  Who, I thought, was littering this sacred space?  Maybe, I mused, my family had gotten up early and placed a plastic Easter egg there for me to stumble upon.  Perhaps it was a bit of refuse unearthed by the tortoise yesterday evening.  She had been rolling stones up and away from her tomb like home.  The nearly phosresece yellow object was none of these things.  What I discovered, upon closer inspection, was that some time in the night, a slime mold had arisen.

 Slime Mold 2


 Slime molds are colonies of protozoan that feed on bacteria found amongst decaying vegetation.   If I were to disturb this slime mold, any displaced cells would find their way back to re-unite.    Professor John Tyler Bonner, who has spent a lifetime studying slime molds argues that Slime molds are "no more than a bag of amoebae encased in a thin slime sheath, yet they manage to have various behaviors that are equal to those of animals who possess muscles and nerves with ganglia -- that is, simple brains."

What a gift these beings before me.  Though they are separate individuals,  they cooperate together to advance their life giving agendas, which if you give it some hard thought, includes predating upon other beings. 

That’s what we do too.  Might we also find ways to cooperate even though we evolved to harm and experience tragic displacing and despairing events in our lives?

Two thousand years ago the followers of Jesus were abruptly and violently displaced, yet they came back together. After looking into the dark tomb, they did not find death, but the good news of what our species may yet obtain or evolve to. 

This morning I did not see grandmother tortoise coming out of the ground as I expected, but I did see life of another kind. Sure it’s slimy and predatory, but it’s beautiful.

As a predator, sometimes too slick for my own good or others, I pray for the wisdom to stick together with others, so that our kind may arise, arise!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gopher Tortoise - No better church!

I have fallen in love with a gohper tortoise in my backyard.  She makes all my days glad, and here I hope this time with her brings joy to your life too!