Tuesday, February 9, 2010

oh the animality!

ok, this post links a couple of my favorite topics, my veganism and my lack of religious beliefs. now, although i say these are favorite topics, i dont mean i like to talk about them all of the time. most of the time i dont like to talk about these things at all, because too often even giving these topics the weight they deserve is practically impossible by the even the occasionally open-minded. but in my daily life, i love being an atheist, and i love being a vegan. and although its pretty obvious, i didn’t really get how these two things related until recently. i have been both a vegetarian and an atheist for as long as i can remember. and neither of them were ever this eureka moment or anything, i just knew that they seemed right for me. and they have been, maybe more than anything else in my life. i love, just love that my life is lived with a love for all of my fellow creatures for their own intrinsic worth. because they are beautiful and amazing and industrious and fragile. i love that i need nothing so big or ominous as an omnipotent god, and i do not need to fuel my ambition with the (literal)lives of others. i do not say this as a look-at-me-on-my-pedestal kinda way, i mean that it just makes my contented. i look outside and see the beauty of nature and i know that it is right and good on its own merits, none that i or any god can give it.

i am reading watership down right now, a bit more slowly than my usual reading pace, because although it is a story about mere rabbits, there are moments of enlightening experiences. and these rabbits struggle with the belief in god as well. they believe in firth, a god-being that takes care of them. when some of the rabbits are saved by a timely train cutting them off from their pursuers, they deem this firths intervention. this is no more unlikely than gods hand in the lives of humans. but tell that to a christian, i am guessing they will see it differently. and where is the love for all of gods creatures by christians? in their bellies of course, because man has dominion over all these things. not beings, beautiful and free, but things. but how great, how deserving is man really? in watership down, the group meets with another village of rabbits, who are cruel and unfeeling, and respond with - animals don’t behave like men. if they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill, they kill. but they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures lives’ and hurting them. we have dignity and ANIMALITY (emphasis by me). this brings to mind, what is this great humanity we think we have? yes, we have amazing cognition, reasoning, emotion, all explained by our large frontal cortex. but why do we believe in this humanity as raising us above animals. animals do not plan for the destruction of others for anything other than survival. and if they hurt another without intention to eat it, they cannot reason the repercussions as we can. yet we still do evil things to each other. i spoke with a friend recently about his religious beliefs. i respect him more than most christians, because he will willingly say i don’t know, a rare trait. but still, he refuses to look beyond the borders of what he has been taught, he confuses the indoctrination he received as a path of his own choosing. and if he reads this and is angry, i can only say that i feel this way not as any critique on his heart, he loves others well and is to be much respected, most assuredly more than me. but he, as most christians, seems to limit his love to those his faith has told him to love. for animals, he has none, at least not in the way that i perceive it. this breaks my heart, and shows the mentality that if a religious scripture tells one group to hate another, they will; if it tells one man he is better than his brother, he will believe it. and maybe it is because we have a proclivity to believe these things, it comes naturally to us. but look out beyond your own horizons. please, please search out what is greater than a word, a psalm, a parable. truth is in the flowers, the trees, the animals, and your fellow man, foreign as he may seem. to quote the great thomas edision whom is respected by most christians for his scientific achievements but would be damned for his beliefs (bringing up the topic of the insanity that people will believe in science for medicine, mathematics, astronomy, physics….but not god, oh no no) – nature is what we know. we do not know the gods of religions. and nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. if god made me — the fabled god of the three qualities of which i spoke: mercy, kindness, love — he also made the fish i catch and eat. and where do his mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in? no; nature made us — nature did it all — not the gods of the religions.

the love for man, nature, life, it is in us all, in our own capacities for greatness; not given, but built piece by piece. i am fortunate beyond what i deserve, not by gods grace, but by the grace of chance of birth. i do not deserve my life any more than a suffering north korean deserves theirs. but it is as it is, and i will right what needs to be righted, and appreciate what deserves to be appreciated. by my own capacity. and my own love.

BOOK REVIEW: Joshua Ferris

so whenever a book comes into my scope of vision more than once, its like i can not function correctly until i get my hands on it.  i know that this is a sign of a true fiend, an addict with little chance of recovery.  i mean, when i get a recommendation from a friend, followed by seeing the author on the daily show; or hear a favorite author mention it and then hear of a reading given by the author, its like i was meant to have that book.  now i know i was not actually meant to have it, like it was pushed towards me by some greater power, but if i take what i have read, analyze, filter, and appreciate it (hopefully without diluting it at all), i may glean something from it that will change my world view.  or i will just have a few laughs and consider it a few hours well spent on worthwhile entertainment.  the two books i read last week by joshua ferris fall somewhere in between those two categories.  

i read his most recent book first, the unnamed, even though i wanted to start with his first book, then we came to the end.  its not like the two books are related, but im a geek like that.  i had kinda heard about his first book a while ago, at least peripherally, since it had caused a bit of a stir as possibly the first book written totally in first person plural (i.e. we, us, our).  i guess i only really heard about it once, cause i never went on a do or die mission to find it.  but last month-ish ferris came out with then we came to the end.  so talk was all over about both books.  the first sounded so grammatically interesting, but i couldnt find it right off, so i started with the other, the unnamed

i'll be quick with this one, since it took me about 5-6 hours to read.  its about a man who cannot stop moving.  sounds like me, i thought.  but his is an impossible to diagnose issue of mental or physical illness that causes him to physically be unable to stop walking.  these bouts hit him at certain intervals, sometimes dormant for years but lasting for months and months.  this novel follows the degradation of the relationships around him because of his illness.  he has a supportive family that believes he is truly ill, but he wavers in believing it himself.  for me this was a book about the inability to allow ourselves to live with stability and certitude.  this man had the so called amercian dream, and although he never consciously wished for a more carefree lifestyle, his manic obsession with putting one foot in front of the other cannot be construed as a mere unfortunate physical anomaly.  there is a deeper, needier, more desperate reason.  i'll let you analyze the outcome for yourself, but i questioned my own constant need to leave people and things behind.

then we came to the end was funnier, darker, and more original.  it was like the movie office space, but from the point of view of all of the obnoxious, irritating office staff that just seem vapid, uninteresting, or self-interested.  the book is written in plural, which made it a riot, and set it up for one of the most lovely final sentences i have read in many years.  it is basically a set of intertwining stories told about the members of an advertising ajency that is on the road to bankruptcy from the economic downturn.  at first the characters induce snickers and eye-rolls from the reader, but after a while, a definite sense of camaraderie is built, and the characters turn into your own coworkers, and dare i say it, friends.  its not really the we in the book that does it, but more a recognizing of the flaws that are in us all, no matter how we try to hide or deny them.  but after reading all the we, us, and our, the setup for the final sentence is perfect.  all of the characters have moved on to other jobs, lives, and they all leave a final little bar gathering, one by one.  and then we come to the end.  …and with that, we’d get in our cars and open the windows and drive off, tapping the horn a final time.  but for the moment, it was nice just to sit there together.  we were the only two left.  just the two of us, you and me.  perfect.  such brevity, such clarity.  kudos ferris, i will picture this moment for a long time.  thanks.