The Benefits of Being with Nice People Who Do Nice Things
There 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.
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.