|Photo by Lainie Fefferman|
The lack of both truth and authenticity occur when we take on protective coloration, put on camouflage -when we behave like others in order to fit in. We may express opinions that aren’t really ours, or withhold them. Sometimes when I’m aware of that dishonest impulse I ask myself how far I’ve come from the conformity of high school during the 1950s. I believe deeply in individuation - in developing one’s own Self, and there's the old To Thine Own Self Be True, which never loses its meaning - yet…..
This morning I experienced that impulse. On the front page of the Chronicle there was an article headed Animal Welfare. It's about an anonymous donation that allowed 1200 chickens that were about to be killed to be flown to the safety of sanctuary on the East Coast. What I learned in that article deeply effected me, and I immediately wanted to write about it - but my first thought was:
“Chickens! Some of your readers are going to think
that’s really weird. And those people who run chicken
sanctuaries are probably considered weird as well -
they probably don’t have Important Positions or Iphones,
or dress well......"
I was rather disgusted with my first thoughts, and I finally remembered Truth and Authenticity, so....
The Facts of Factory Farmed Eggs: Laying chickens are kept in tight wire cages with 8 other birds where they can’t lie down or turn around. Artificial lights are kept on 24 hours a day so they'll produce more 'jumbo' eggs. The feet of the leghorns are frayed from the wire cage bottoms, their wings torn from beating against wire. They are exhausted after 2 or 3 years, and no longer able to lay jumbo eggs, so they are gassed. It is not “economical” to keep them.
The truth is that I can’t bear to have any living being treated that way. I feel for them. I don’t care that they aren’t cute, like baby seals, or capable of inventing a better smart phone. I imagine someone, a voice from the community of my childhood, saying "1500 humans were gassed in Syria, and you’re worrying about chickens?"
I think about my former students who were very concerned with animal welfare. They seemed to have given up on humans - but I have not. It is true that my focus is often on the welfare of the entire planet, but I don’t think the plight of the chickens is separate from our own. I think that when we lack empathy - when we make a person or an animal Other - we not only do them harm, but we harm ourselves. We are diminished. We lose the ability to be open-hearted. We lose the ability to feel how all life is connected, and the pleasure that comes from that realization. And that for me - that Open Heart - is the highest truth. Ibn al-Arabi said it best:
"My heart has become capable of every form: A pasture
for gazelles, a monastery for monks, a temple for sculptures,
the Kabah for pilgrims, the scroll of the Torah, the book of the
Koran. I follow the religion of Love: whatever direction Love's camels take is my religion; my faith. "
Happy New Year!