MLK Quotes and Animal Rights

If he were still alive today, Martin Luther King Jr. would be 91 years old. Insane to imagine this man is only one year older than my grandmother. How much more wisdom would we have been able to gain from his presence on this earth had he not been assassinated? What would his opinion be of all that is happening in our world today? I would be so interested to be able to hear Dr. King’s perspective of the animal rights movement. After reading dozens of quotes from his writings and speeches on Monday, I was deeply touched by how many of these statements could be attributed to the oppression of other animals as well as to the oppression of different groups of people.

I’d like to think that because of the obvious similarities between all forms of oppression, he would be a supporter of animal liberation. Yet my cynical side doubts that would actually be the case. He may even take offense to the comparison as so many people seem to do and seek to distance himself from this even less well-received movement. Despite what he may or may not have added to this important conversation, I still think the comments he did make about social justice can and should be applied to the plight of all enslaved and/or subjugated beings.

We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote is definitely one of my favorites. This expression covers so much of what I feel about society today. Dr. King was a very hopeful man. He hoped against all hope. I do think he believed deep down that we would one day “live together as brothers.” However, I think it’s pretty obvious which end we’ve chosen, and it’s not brotherhood. It is my belief that our selfishness, ignorance, and greed will surely result in us “perishing together as fools.” Whether you want to apply this to the pandemic and our piss poor response or use it to reference our propping up of animal agriculture and its huge influence on climate change, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction, the ending looks the same.

If we can’t give a damn about others enough to stop spreading disease all over the world to suit our own convenience, we will surely perish. If we can’t respect the life and liberty of other beings enough to stop enslaving and killing them for a “yummy flavor” we will most definitely all perish. If it were only the human race that would be affected by the latter demise, I would say “good.” We deserve nothing less. At the very least, I will take comfort in the fact that you cannot get away with such atrocities forever. There will be consequences. And we will soon meet the ultimate consequence for our selfishness, our greed, and our infinite stupidity as a species. It will not be a tragedy either. It will be our due. It will be the ultimate stroke of justice to end our pathetic existence on this world which we do not deserve to be a part of.

A lie cannot live.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mother Earth’s Last Gasp

Nature is truly remarkable in its ability to adapt to ever changing conditions. Not only do individual species evolve, but the whole earth seems to shift and grow as time marches on to accommodate new creatures and circumstances and keep everything relatively stable. For a long time now it has seemed that human beings are some kind of wild aberration of nature, something that mother earth has no hope of adjusting to fast enough for our existence to be sustainable. Every now and then I’ll see something that gives me some form of dark hope for our planet though, some otherwise strange development in nature that no one seems able to explain. Just when I think mother earth has finally succumb to our brutality and greed, she surprises me with another clever innovation to overcome our destruction.

A few years ago on the news there was a lot of talk about a new species of tick. Apparently people who were bitten by this tick didn’t contract lyme disease or anything serious. No, this tick did something much more innocuous, yet important. It made its victims allergic to meat. I don’t recall how common this tick was or where about in the world it was located, but I remember at the time half-heartedly joking about procuring one of these little buggers to breed and systematically unleash on the world. If people couldn’t make the choice to go vegan to save the animals, themselves, and the planet, I would work hand in hand with mother earth to force them to. And I would have felt completely justified in doing so. Eating meat is one of those tricky “personal choices” that isn’t so personal when you realize the effect on others. It might be your choice to litter or pollute the water supply, but I doubt anyone would try to defend that as a right. (Even though pig farming is one of the biggest polluters of water ways.) But I digress.

I waited to see if anything would come of this miraculous little tick, but soon this news story faded into the background like so many others with little impact. Just yesterday though it occurred to me that mother earth may have a new trick up her sleeve with Covid-19. Ticks may not be capable of spreading around the globe very quickly, but a virus certainly can, especially this one. From the moment this pandemic started, I felt in my heart that it was nature’s immune system trying to rid it of another virus, us. Still, it made me wonder. After all, Covid is deadly, but not nearly as deadly as other illnesses that have sprung up in the past. No, it seemed as though Covid’s goal wasn’t explicitly to kill, but to spread quickly and over great distances.

One of the more peculiar symptoms of this virus has been the loss of taste and smell, particularly in that these senses often do not return after recovering from the virus. I recalled my coworker saying it wouldn’t be all bad to lose his taste. At least then he would be able to eat healthy with no qualms. I absentmindedly thought to myself, well maybe he’d even go vegan. (Not that vegan foods are not exceptionally delish, mind you. Meat eaters just assume they aren’t.) At this, I nearly jumped out of my chair at the poetic justice of it all. NO TASTE! THAT’S IT!

All of a sudden it felt as though I could hear the earth saying: Oh, fucking taste is the reason you continue to kill me? That stupid sensory pleasure is your excuse for slaughtering and consuming billions of animals every year, wasting my resources, and poisoning my environment? haha bacon tho? How about never tasting anything again? Maybe that will suit you better. If that’s what it takes to make you finally stop this madness.

One of the most frustrating parts of being a vegan is presenting all the important, essential reasons we must, as a species, change our diet if we hope to survive, and the unspeakable atrocities we commit every day by eating animals, only to be met with the counter argument, “but I like how meat and dairy taste.” It is absolutely infuriating and exasperating. It’d be like if we actively helped start and spread wildfires because “ooo, pretty.” It’s fucking stupid.

I am far too cynical to believe that the human race collectively losing its sense of taste would actually make people stop eating and abusing sentient beings. I am still curious to see what effect this will have on the human diet. It would be nice to imagine that with every last one of their already idiotic and irrelevant excuses gone, people would make the easy and obvious choice to adopt a vegan diet, but I have little hope of that happening. I’m sure everyone will just come up with some other illogical reason to continue on just as they are. Still it gives me hope to think that all is not lost. Mother earth hasn’t surrendered just yet. She is testing out new strategies all the time. Unfortunately we seem committed to forcing her hand and giving the unspoken ultimatum “kill us all or we will kill ourselves and everything there is.” I sincerely hope it does not come to that, but I’m not holding my breath for humans to change.

Mother Earth Posters | Fine Art America

Covid-19: No End In Sight

It’s crazy to me that despite Covid being as bad as it’s ever been if not worse, we have not returned to a state of lock down, at least in the U.S. It feels like everyone took it seriously for a few months, but then got tired of feeling inconvenienced so we all just collectively gave up following the CDC guidelines. It saddens me to think all of the work we put in as a country in the beginning of this pandemic was practically worthless. We were hoping for herd immunity. We were supposed to be waiting for the vaccine, then things would be able to go back to normal. Now given that a huge portion of the country won’t agree to take the vaccine, wear masks, quarantine, or even get tested, the end result is an never-ending pandemic with ever increasing severity.

All of the lives we were attempting to protect with the nearly year-long lockdown are going to be lost anyway. Even those that have been vaccinated are no longer safe, due to the carelessness and selfishness of those around them. Now those of us that take the pandemic seriously are forced to choose: stay away from our elderly and/or at risk loved ones, or risk letting them spend their last few years on this earth alone. Before all of this madness, my sister, mother, and I were visiting with my 91-year-old grandmother every week. Now I hardly ever see her besides on holidays even though she lives a short five minutes from my house. I desperately want to go back to our regular visits, but I’m too afraid of putting her health in jeopardy.

Sadly I think we all need to accept that from now until the world completely collapses from the effects of climate change, we are going to be living side by side with this virus. It isn’t going to go away or get better. We are never going to reach herd immunity. New variants are going to continue cropping up, becoming more and more easily spread and more deadly. Covid is a strain of the common cold. We have never been unable to eradicate the other strains, and we are going to be living with Covid for the rest of human existence now as well.

Recently I’ve been considering just how serious anyone’s chance of exposure is on any given day. Unless you are able to stay completely isolated in your home, we are all likely coming into contact with someone that has Covid wherever we go. Red states and districts will of course be worse in this regard than blue ones, but nevertheless we are all at higher risk of contracting the virus than ever before. Just think about it. How many people do you know that still don’t believe that Covid-19 is even real? How many people think it’s exaggerated? How many people refuse to wear a mask? Refuse to get tested or quarantine when they’ve been exposed or are experiencing symptoms? I know quite a few, and those are just the few I’ve encountered and who will freely admit this atrocious stance. Just imagine how many children are being sent to school everyday who have been exposed to Covid. Many schools are not requiring masks and those that do are being fought with for it at every turn.

At this point, there is nothing to do but get vaccinated, go out as little as possible, and just hope you’re lucky. We must prepare to live with the fear of death hanging over our shoulders from now on. We must prepare to suddenly lose loved ones at any given moment. Hospitals will be perpetually overwhelmed and unable to adequately treat patients both with and without Covid. If you’re still waiting and wondering when this will all finally be over, the answer is it will never be over.

Sergipe registra 769 novos casos de Covid-19 e óbitos chegam a 2.508 –  Infonet – O que é notícia em Sergipe

Outgrowing Selfishness

I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.

As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.

The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.

No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.

So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.

Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

Seeking Redemption

Last night I dreamt about possibly the biggest mistake I ever made in my past. I woke up feeling weighed down by all those heavy memories. All morning I have been feeling ashamed and unworthy of redemption. When I think about terrible, selfish things I’ve done there are at least a handful of things that readily come to mind. Yet when I try to think of caring, kind, selfless acts, my mind goes blank. Am I really this awful person that I perceive myself to be? Or is my perception skewed?

I think most people make justifications and excuses for the wrong they’ve done. They allow these rationalizations to comfort their conscience. My mind tries to tell me that everyone makes mistakes, that I was young and naïve, that I would never want to hurt anyone. But I refuse these ideas outright. I feel at my core that I deserve condemnation for my actions, that if anyone knew me like I know myself, they would cast me out, and rightfully so.

Some people argue that altruism doesn’t really exist. Even kind acts are beneficial to the bearer. Yet most people, I imagine, still feel confident in their goodness after performing a good dead. I on the other hand, view the kind things I’ve done as others view their misdeeds. I minimize them. I explain them away. I tell myself that I’ve done these things out of my own self-interest. I deny any altruistic intentions.

What I’m left with is the guilt and blame of all the wrong I’ve done and none of the credit for anything decent in my past. Most people are shocked when they discover that I think so little of myself. “You are a good person,” they tell me, “You are so kind and compassionate!” But I shrink away from these reassurances. They don’t really know me, I tell myself. Then I feel even more guilty for deceiving them. It is a very lonely life, feeling unknown and unknowable.

I suppose there is really no way for me to truly know if the image I hold of myself is accurate. It might all come back to the grey areas I struggle so much with. Perhaps I am a bad, selfish person, but also a caring, loving one. Even so, I desperately want to atone for all the wrong that I have done, even though I am the only one who knows about a lot of it. I want to live a life that I can be proud of. I don’t want to keep lamenting these mistakes. I want to be freed from the sins of my past. I want redemption for myself, from myself.

I am grateful that I have the principles of yoga to guide me. Even though I feel a lot of the Yamas and Niyamas are out of my reach, beyond my capabilities, I still want to try to embody them. I want to become honest and upright, truthful and generous, thoughtful and helpful. I know that happiness lies within these virtues. I must believe that, regardless of my past failings, I am strong enough, I am intelligent enough, to change.

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com