“Somewhere in the rain, there will always be an abandoned dog that prevents you from being happy.” ~ Aldous Huxley
At the heart of this compassionate citizen, and many others, lies a deeply inextricable empathy which informs daily life. Sometimes this keen awareness of the plight of others manifests itself as an underlying sense of sadness, which, to varying degrees, tinges every waking (and often sleeping) moment of our consciousness. That is not to say that I am sad all the time, or that every joyous occasion is sabotaged by despair. I’m not a “Debbie Downer”. But I believe that once a true awakening occurs, bringing into the light the ever-present suffering of our fellow earthlings, it is impossible to ever completely squelch that awareness, that empathy. It’s hard for me to imagine a time in my life when I didn’t care so much. But there was one. For me, as with many, this awakening happened gradually.
While I’ve always considered myself to be a compassionate person, kind and caring and conscientious, living by the Golden Rule, I began to realize that I did not extend my compassion to some of those who needed it most: the animals I was eating. The discrimination that we humans impose on other animals is referred to as “speciesism”, and is likened in quality to other forms of prejudice such as racism and sexism.
As I witnessed the tremendous suffering involved in the production of animal products for human consumption, I concluded that a true call to compassion necessarily dictates following the basic tenets of ethical veganism: to abstain from using any animal products, or supporting any enterprise which exploits animals. “Why love one, but eat the other?” asks the popular brochure printed by Mercy For Animals. Or, “Which do you pet? Which do you eat? Why?”, the provocative question posed on handouts supplied by Farm Animal Rights Movement.
Now, as I’ve become more educated about the various ways animals are abused by humans, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to ease, or at the very least, not contribute to their suffering. This has led me to become an active advocate for animals. In everything I do, there is something to remind me of those less fortunate. If the water is too hot when I get into the shower, I think of the chickens who go to the de-feathering tanks, fully conscious, to be scalded to death. When I shiver in the cold wind, I think of the pigs being transported across the country to their slaughter, deprived of any comfort or protection from the elements, many of whom literally suffer to death en route. While enjoying a hearty meal, I silently grieve for those who are starving. And when it rains, as I’m cozy and warm in my home, gazing out at the downpour (which I rather enjoy, but not nearly as much as I used to), I do think of the abandoned dog who is out there in it somewhere, lonely and frightened. My own discomforts and hardships pale in comparison to those which others – human and non-human – endure. I’m no longer able, as I once was, to suppress my awareness into my unconscious. It is impossible to “unsee” that which has been seen. Whether I’m in the midst of some pleasant experience, or a challenging one, there is always a connective thread, the degree to which I contemplate it varying by occasion, which anchors me to the world’s woes.
As a compassionate citizen, I’m doing my best to live a meaningful life in this world, knowing I won’t see the kind of world I yearn for in my lifetime. From time to time, I’ll use this blog to share musings, insights, and accounts of experiences, some of which will be quite somber, and others which will be lighthearted in content.
Welcome to my world.