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)