24 December 2010

Peaceful Holidays

I recently heard a pundit say that there's more violence in America's living rooms than on America's streets. That may or may not be true, but what I do know is that it can be easier to talk about peace in the Middle East than it is to address making peace in our own families. I'm fortunate that I come from a loving and intact family, yet we still have our differences. Like many families in the 21st century, mine spans several different religions and a wide range of political views. Plus, we have plain old individual quirks that can drive each other nuts from time to time. There's nothing like the holidays to bring all of that into the forefront.

It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I discovered a powerful weapon for keeping the family peace: Intention. Rather than approaching the kitchen table with trepidation, just waiting for the first jab or disagreement, I realized that I could approach my family with the intention of bringing peace. I could stop focusing on who loved and accepted me and who didn't. I could resolve to simply love and accept every person at the table just for their quirky beautiful selves. I could stop waiting for love and resolve to be the Lover.

That lesson was solidified for me when my father was sick with cancer and was driving us nuts recounting the same stories over and over again. I realized that even though it was irritating to hear the same words again and again, a time was fast approaching when I wouldn't be able to hear his voice at all. So I learned to say, "Yes, daddy, I love that story. Please tell it again." And then I would listen to that voice I had known since childhood, its tone and timbre, and try to memorize its song. I still miss his voice at Christmas these 10 years later.

I go now to the family table, bringing food and a few small gifts and especially bringing my intention to love. May we be happy. May we feel joy. May we be at peace.

And may you, my online friends, be happy. May you feel joy. May you be at peace.

love, Annie

06 December 2010

Peace On Earth, Good Will to Animals

Walton Ford, "The Island" (Image via Paul Kasmin Gallery)
Anybody who blogs will be familiar with the phenomenon called "comment spam." Comment spam comes in several varieties. Some are anonymous comments full of links that blatantly advertise other web sites that have nothing at all to do with your blog. Other comment spam is actually relevant to the content of your blog, but advertises its own agenda. Usually this type of spam is done by using an alert program that hunts for relevant keywords and then places the spam into conversations about those words.

This morning I received the latter type of comment spam on my latest post, "Studying Peace." Rather than place it in the comments section I thought I'd elevate it and give it a post of its own, as it deals somewhat with the subject of "peace." Since it was an anonymous comment, I can't credit the writer, but because it falls into the category of spam I'm going to delete the portion of the comment that sends the reader to a vegan web site. (If you're interested in visiting a vegan web site, I'm sure you know how to find one.) Here's the comment:

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed. Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

First of all, let me state right up front that I'm repulsed by factory farming of animals. My own meat consumption has gone from daily when I was a child to about 2ce monthly just from contemplating the unpleasant notion of eating the carcass of a frightened cow. I also agree with the sentiment that humans are amazing. And I agree with the implied message that human logic is often ridiculous and flawed or simply absent.

What I don't like in this neatly packaged paragraph is the idea, also implied, that if we were all to stop eating meat there would somehow be peace on earth. To me this is a wishful oversimplification, not unlike "cut taxes and government spending" as the solution to all our economic problems or "just say no" as a method of stopping drug traffic. If things were that simple we'd be done with them.

As I discovered in my research for the Pilgrim series, the practice of keeping domestic animals is quite ancient and it came to North America with the colonial settlers. The practice of eating animals goes back forever as far as I can tell. So does the practice of making war. I don't know if it's possible for us to entirely stop doing either one.

The question we seem to be facing right now, in almost all areas of our living, is how/whether we can keep doing our human things at a global scale. How long can we continue to make war before our weapons wipe out the planet? How long can we keep privatizing goods and resources before we've sold our children's futures? How long can we keep consuming cheap goods before we run out of cheap labor and fuels and we have to pay what things are really worth? Our food cycle certainly falls into these categories too -- industrial farming of both plants and animals is unsafe and unsustainable.

Getting back to the topic of my current print, I'm pretty sure that adopting a vegan lifestyle will do little to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But what would peace there look like? I believe that both the Palestinians and the Israelis want peace, but they disagree about what a peaceful Israel/Palestine would look like.

What would peace on earth look like? Is it possible?

Thanks for the topic, mr. spammer!