The Benefits of Being with Nice People Who Do Nice Things


IMG_5366There was a story in this morning’s Orlando Sentinel about the new book, “Beneath the Surface,” by John Hargrove. He’s a former senior trainer at SeaWorld’s parks who was interviewed for the documentary “Blackfish” after quitting his job in 2012. Apparently his book is opening old wounds in Orlando. People here remember Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who was battered and drowned by a bored, stressed-out orca in 2010. Many feel a deep sadness over this incident; some are still outraged.

My trainer and I talked about it this morning. I told him I’d gone to an Alan Jackson concert at SeaWorld Sunday afternoon at the invitation of dear friends.  He won’t go to SeaWorld any more and gives everyone who does a hard time. He can’t see why anyone would want to go to a place that holds these magnificent intelligent animals captive for the purpose of making money off them.  He doesn’t think their educational programs are justification for it.

I told him about a brilliant but deeply disturbing book I read years ago titled “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell.  This fascinating mix of science fiction and theology highlights the moral dilemma of being a conscious animal that eats and hunts and experiments on other animals.  He says he’s okay with eating a chicken or cow and lower vertebrates because of their less well-developed brains and neural pathways.

We agreed it’s easier to eat an animal you didn’t kill.  I told him my grandpa used to chop the head off an occasional chicken, then Grandma would pluck and dismember it in preparation for Sunday dinner.  I saw one running around without its head once. I ate it the next day and liked it.  We decided kids who grow up on farms get used to this sort of thing. That seems a shame, somehow.

I said I read an article about how some scientists now believe everything has some form of consciousness, even plants.  Even rocks.  It seems we’re actually surrounded by, and part of a “sea” of consciousness. The cells of our bodies even have consciousness.

He said if that’s true, then if we didn’t eat anything that had consciousness we’d all starve to death.  He has a point. He likes the way Star Trek solved that problem.  People had learned to make food that was full of nutrients and tasted like anything you wanted, but it didn’t contain animal products.  Won’t somebody please invent that?  Quick?Meanwhile, I guess we just have to decide which forms of consciousness we’re willing to eat and which we’re not, then find a way to come to terms with it. Otherwise, we’ll all either starve or go mad with existential angst.

Sometimes, living in this world is hard.  Sometimes very hard!  Yet, I’m feeling mellow on this beautiful spring day. I think it’s a holdover from Sunday’s visit to SeaWorld with Sam and Eleanor.  When we got there, Sam took me to where people were learning to line dance and whispered something to the man calling out the steps. He came over, pulled me into the group of dancers, and stayed with me ’til I got it.  It was fun.

Eleanor without her Bubbalou's T shirt
Eleanor without her Bubbalou’s T shirt

After that, a woman asked me where I’d gotten the cool black “Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que” T-shirt with the pink dancing pigs on it. I told her Sam gave it to me. He owns Bubbalou’s, one of the caterers for the “Bands, Brew, and BBQ” weekend events SeaWorld sponsored throughout March. She wanted to buy one, but they weren’t selling them. I introduced her to Eleanor. She told Eleanor she’s a helicopter pilot from Alaska. She attends this event every year. It’s the only time she gets to enjoy country music because her family doesn’t like it. Eleanor took off her T-shirt and gave it to her. Sam gave her a ticket for a free Bar-B-Que dinner after the concert.

Sam had reserved front row seats at the concert.  Alan Jackson was wonderful. Afterwards, the bass guitar player gave me a free Alan Jackson guitar pick. It says “YEE HAW” on one side and there’s a silhouette of A.J. on the other. I plan to try it out on my ukulele.

I still eat chickens and fish and occasionally cows. I usually feel guilty about it. I don’t hunt or fish;  partly on principle, partly because I don’t like to shoot guns or put worms on hooks. I feel sorry for them. The worms and the fish. I ate Bar-B-Que by the lake after the concert. I had the rest for lunch today. It was delicious.

My trainer and friends are good people. They remind me of the wellspring of caring and kindness at the core of every psyche. I’ve been thinking about the Buddhist goal of “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.”  It helps some.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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0 Responses

  1. Thanks Jean for this! I try to eat consciously with regard to animal products. I seldom eat meat but so enjoy it when I do, likewise chicken and fish. I think it’s good to know where our food comes from. We can avoid eg Monsanto food stuffs, food that uses palm oil (rain forests destroyed to get to the palm fruit) etc. It’s a small individual protest.
    Lovely story of Eleanor giving the helicopter woman her t-shirt! And the guitar player giving you a pick! We were away in the bush this weekend, returned yesterday, and one of the memorable evenings around the fire on a starlit night was a woman playing her guitar and singing country songs – I thought of you.

    1. Hi Susan, I think the “small individual protest” against whatever hurts us counts, just as does the little kindness. We’re all in this sea together; we can’t help but influence one another. Thank you for thinking of me around the fire. I would have loved that! Jeanie

  2. “Joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.” Yes. Thank you, Jean, for sharing your stories and thoughts on both consciousness and balance. 🙂

    1. This phrase has eased a lot of guilt ever since I ran across it in one of Joseph Campbell’s books. Thank you, Catherine, for always being such an open-hearted, receptive listener!

  3. One Buddhist teaching is that all life lives on other life. This is true, whether we’re talking about a whale or a tomato. The question is one of personal morality, for those of us conscious enough to make such decisions. The Middle Way is often best. Remember Goldilocks!

    1. “All life lives on other life.” Thank you for this, Skip. It helps put things in perspective. After all, being too hard on oneself for being human is just another form of inflation, isn’t it? Still chuckling over your last remark. Who knew Goldilocks was such a wise little girl? 🙂

  4. Jeanie, a blessed Easter for you and family, time for redemption renewal peace and joy.
    A question please – I’d like to direct people who respond to my blog to your site: can I use the url One or two have said about not remembering dreams and I’d like them to have access to your Six-Step Method for Working with Dreams – and all your other posts! I’m not savvy at all about computer stuff but saw a url and I suspect that if I put that link up it should direct?
    Thank you and I hope all well .. Susan

    1. A blessed Easter to you and yours too, Susan. This is such a beautiful and hopeful season.
      Thank you for sharing my posts with your readers. I think your April series on dreams is wonderful!
      I’m afraid I’m probably the least computer-savvy person you know. I tried the link you gave me and it just links to one post: the one about helping people with dreams. However, once your readers arrive there, they can go to any of my other posts by looking through the archives which are posted in the green column to the right. Of course, you can do the same, then copy the addresses of the specific posts you want to link to and post them on your blog. The main address for my blog is
      Here’s the link to the specific post you want about the 6-step Method for Working with Dreams: If you remember any other posts you want to share with your readers, I can probably find them more easily than you, as I have a list of the titles of all my posts on my administration page and I can look them up by titles and then copy their addresses and send them to you. I’m sorry I don’t know an easier method than that.

      1. Jeanie, thank you so much for the links and ways of doing this, so clear. I will attend to this tomorrow or Sunday. Well if you are not so computer savvy, believe me I’m right behind you. I think I’ll use the (with http etc before) and say exactly what you say about the right hand side and that the 6 step method was in January.
        Many many thanks …
        Have a blessed weekend.

  5. It is interesting that we are examining how and what we eat in the context of who and how we are. Has such a time ever required this ethical process before? Perhaps societies in ecological crisis? This thought-provoking post reminds me of a letter my 95 year old, farming, great-grandmother wrote about slaughtering a cow (at her age). She certainly wasn’t disconnected from her food-source and I’m sure it was ‘organic.’ I’m not sure she would have questioned eating an animal she probably treated compassionately. Have you seen that episode of ‘Portlandia’ where the waitress shows them a photo of the chicken they are about to eat and assures them ‘Colin’ had friends? Great spoof on food concerns going ‘around the bend.’ Cool story about the guitar pick! Sounds like a fun time with your friends.

    1. Hi Steven, I suspect the ethical issue of what form of life we are comfortable feeding upon is not entirely new (as Skip’s comment above notes, Buddhists have long taught that all life feeds on other life) but is a luxury in which only those with a regular and reliable supply of food can afford to indulge. I seriously doubt this issue would ever arise for anyone struggling to survive on a daily basis. Likewise, for those who make their living and feed their families from animals and the land. Privilege and consciouness come with the price of a conscience, which, in turn, births guilt, shame and compassion. Luckily, these things also motivate social action and change.
      I’ve never seen Portlandia, but it sounds like something I’d get a kick out of!
      Thanks for writing. I think I’m playing better with my new guitar pick! 🙂

  6. Jeannie, when you come to our house you’ll see rocks placed all around the house in various places…I put them there and I know what they mean…to me, at least. They’ve never spoken to me audibly but they do speak to me in ways that perhaps only I understand, but that’s okay, at least I understand, and they make me happy because I know they are so much older and wiser thanI am! I love you, sweet friend, Vangie

    1. If it’s meaningful to you, that’s all that matters. You are another one of those nice people who does nice things, bringing pleasure to all who know you. Love, Jeanie

      1. Its an ongoing debate in my ethical body but….I eat it, I don’t feel guilt. I do eat it in awareness of its murder. I believe we are evolving at our own rate. This is one reason we bless our food before consuming it. I have spoken with rocks, trees and teddy bears, so yes I really do agree that everything has consciousness.
        Thanks for sharing.

  7. And thanks for visiting, Sindy. Yes, an ongoing debate with no clear answers. Another price of consciousness: tolerating the tension between opposites without trying to escape in pat answers.

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