A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
One sees one’s favorite equine friend--and what can one do but nuzzle?
Editor’s Corner Guest Essay: I Sang to the Cows
By Judith McCoy Carman
The cows come and go in the various pastures around my home. It is a constant heartache to see them go and, at the same time, a blessing beyond measure to be in their presence. I often sing to them, being careful not to allow thoughts of their future to enter my mind. I want to be a blessing to them and show them that there are human beings on earth who love and respect them. Today, however, on my walk, I felt something more powerfully than I ever had. A group of about ten cows crowded up to the fence near the road on which I was walking. They had not been in that pasture before, so I don’t know if they knew me from another pasture or not. But clearly they wanted to greet me in some way. So I knelt by the fence and started to sing to them. As usual they seemed to absolutely love it in spite of my not-so-great singing voice. But as I sang, I felt more deeply and clearly than ever that these cows were singing back to me—not with audible sound, but with some sort of vibration from their hearts and souls to mine. Not only singing, but teaching me! I felt completely embraced in their love and tears filled my eyes.
Though I can’t find human words for their messages, I know they got through to my soul somehow. I know without doubt they, and all the other animals have so much to teach us, so much to share, so much Pure Love to give. As activists we so often think of ourselves as their protectors, but there is so much more. Just as we can heal and protect them, they can do the same for us. And they want to. It brings to mind the Bible verse (Job 12: 7 and 8) “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you.”
PRAYER TO LISTEN WELL: We call upon Divine Love, the Love that animates and embraces all living beings, to help us really listen. Help us to hear the lessons our animal cousins, the plants and trees, and the earth have to share with us. Help us to feel the love that is pouring out to us from every rock, tree, butterfly, snail, flower, cow, dog, and from every living being. It is so much, and when we start to hear the music and feel the embrace of it all, the joy is almost overwhelming. It is so different from the everyday activity of humanity that we are used to. Give us the strength and clarity to receive it all and be revived into our true and holy nature. Give us the strength and clarity to go forward ever more effectively to finally bring an end to the human-caused suffering. Give us the strength to really listen, really hear, and really see the miracle of all this. Help us to know and sense the spiritual cord that connects our hearts to the hearts of all beings and the heart of the earth. Perhaps, this overwhelming joy is frightening those who still have not found their ahimsa heart. May all people everywhere be drawn to that joy so powerfully that they can no longer shut it off. May all human souls find the peace and joy that we have found by awakening to their loving soul connection with all beings everywhere. judycarman.jpg
We call upon Divine Intelligence to guide us as we pray and take action to bring the true nature of humanity into being. Cruelty and violence cannot survive in a world overflowing with Love. That is what we are creating day by day, prayer by prayer, action by action, book by book. actions, thoughts, prayers, and visions is making it happen. The tipping Judy Carman
point is near. The Love you bring to this work in your actions, thoughts, prayers, and visions is making it happen.
--Judith Carman writes a prayer for human-animal Peace every week. One can sign up to receive it at www.circleofcompassion.org, as well as see it on the Prayer Circle for Animals Facebook and share it from there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/prayercircleforanimals
“We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”saint_francis.jpg
--Thich Nhat Hanh
“Government, like [clothing], is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of Paradise.”
--Thomas Paine, “Common Sense,” 1776
“Not to hurt our humble brethren, the animals, is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it.”
--Francis of Assisi --Contributed by Karen Borch
“The key to changing the world, and pursuing justice and disarmament is to allow the God of peace to disarm our hearts . . . .” --John Dear
“There is not an animal that lives on the Earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but form parts of communities like you. . . . And they shall all be gathered to their Lord in the end.”
--Sura “Al Anam,” Kur’an
Dutch Government to End Animal Experiments
The Netherlands parliament has passed a law to phase out out all animal experimentation by 2025, and has asked PETA scientists for support. We celebrate our Dutch sisters and brothers for leading the way, and hope it can be accomplished sooner than 2025. See Empty Cages
--Contributed by PETA
(Your humble editor, being of Dutch extraction, is basking in their reflected glory!)
Scientists at Curtin University in Perth have learned that fish communicate with each other via a variety of noises they make; as one scientist put it, they “sing.” See Fish Talk
--Contributed by MFA
Dairy Farmers Going Nuts
California dairy farmers, seeing the handwriting in nut milk on the wall, are moving into almond growing; the number of dairy cows in the state has diminished, and some dairy people are planting almond orchards. This will be a triple blessing for the planet, the cows, and the people. See Nuts
Farmed Animals Killed by Hurricane Matthew
Thousands of chickens and pigs in North Carolina factory farms drowned in floods raised by the deadly hurricane. Authorities have focussed on assuring the public that pollution of drinking water will be contained, but saying little about the animal rights tragedy. See Flood
--Contributed by MFA
Tyson Foods Investing in Beyond Meat
Like dairy, meat consumption in the US is falling; it diminished 15% in 2015 alone. Tyson, the United States’ largest animal-killing firm, is cannily responding to its shrinking market by purchasing a five percent stake in California-based vegan-meat company Beyond Meat. See Good Foods and Heading Vegan
--Contributed by Bruce Friedrich and MFA
Beyond Meat Burger on Sale!
The pink-like-raw-meat vegan burger, whose central ingredient is yellow-pea protein and whose taste is said to be indistinguishable from that of meat, is out in Whole Foods markets. The price is not yet competitive with flesh burgers (which ride high on all the perks animal ag receives from the government), but it is within many people’s budgets at last. See “Beyond” Burger
--Contributed by Bruce Friedrich of Good Food Institute
Pioneer: Thich Nhat Hanh, 1926-
Nhat Hanh* is, after the Dalai Lama, undoubtedly the best-known Buddhist teacher in the world today, and like him a powerful advocate and activist for peace, compassion, and mindful living. His practice includes vegetarianism, which to his mind logically entails veganism. A long-time exile, he has lived in France since 1967, and at his famous center, Plum Village in the south of that country, since 1982. Until age and health issues forced a more sedentary life, he traveled frequently and internationally giving retreats and talks.Nhat-Hanh.jpg
Born in Hue, in central Vietnam, in 1926, Nhat Hanh entered a monastery near his home at the age of 16. As his country sank deeper and deeper into tragic conflict involving successively Japanese, French, American, and various Vietnamese forces, he rose in Buddhist prominence, as writer, editor, and founder of a corps of neutral Buddhist peace-workers who went into rural villages to establish schools and clinics, and rebuild communities devastated by war.
In 1960 Nhat Hanh came to the United States to study comparative religion at Princeton, and subsequently became a lecturer at Columbia University. But he went back to Vietnam in 1963 to assist his fellow monks in their non-violent efforts for peace. He returned to the U.S. in 1966 to lead a symposium on Vietnamese Buddhist at Cornell University and to further advocate for peace. On this visit he meet with Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey, receiving that famous monk's strong support, and later on the same trip with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was Nhat Hanh who urged King to denounce the Vietnam War, which he did in a famous sermon in Riverside Church. The following year King nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize, writing "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity." But the prize was not awarded that war-torn year, and the ungrateful response from his homeland was to deny him re-entry into both North and South Vietnam. He moved to France.
Nhat Hanh has been a leader in the movement known as Engaged Buddhism, and indeed was the creator of that term. His work for peace and rural renewal in Vietnam was certainly an outstanding example of it. Nonetheless since exile his approach, though he was still active in movements for causes like ecology and opposing human trafficking, has also turned toward inner peace as the source of outer.
The core of his teaching is meditation, and then letting the mindfulness awakened in sitting and walking meditation permeate all of life. The ideal is always to be happy in the present moment, whatever one is doing. After all, persons who are happy do not start wars, wreak violence on a spouse or child, or seek to acquire more than their share of the world's goods. It is only those who are unhappy who think they can equalize things by making others as unhappy as they, or dream of "winning" at the cost of vast death and destruction, or who consider that changing their unhappiness into happiness would simply be a matter of a more expensive car or house. Nhat Hanh is well aware that real joy does not come that way; it is found within oneself as one stills the mind and lets it well up, or not at all.
Of course one's outer life must also be consistent with deep inner joy. It means living in a way that says I do not need more possessions, or more unhappiness on the part of other beings, to find my own happiness. This is the way of the monk or nun, or of the lay person who honors an inward shrine to the same values and lives accordingly in context of work and family in the world. Vegetarianism is a key part of this way of life. It is the way of compassion, and as Nhat Hanh emphasizes, the most effective way to stop climate change. "Being vegetarian," he wrote in his famous Blue Cliff Letter of 2007, "is already enough to save the world." The Vietnamese monk added, rightly, "Dairy and egg products. . . are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing." Even if one is only able to commit to being partially vegetarian now and work toward completeness, "We will have peace, joy, and happiness from the moment we make this vow and commitment."robert.jpeg
Finally, here are "Contemplations Before Eating" proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh:
This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude as as to be worthy to receive this food.
May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha [sacred community], and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
*”Thich” is a Vietnamese Buddhist title for a monk, like "The Reverend." Without it, the cleric is usually referred to by his two monastic names. In Vietnamese, Nhat means “one,” here in the sense of “number one,” “premier”, or “best,” and Hanh “Action.” The religious name could roughly be translated, appropriately, as the Buddhist expression “Right Action.”
--Robert Ellwood (with winged friend)
Book Review: Eden’s Other Residents
Michael J. Gilmour, Eden's Other Residents: The Bible and Animals. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014. xvii + 169 pages. $24.00 paper.
Those for whom the Judeo-Christian Bible is the basic religious authority, and who have urgent animal concerns, will find this compact book an enlightening and highly positive resource. The author of Eden's Other Residents is head of the Department of Biblical Studies and Practical Theology at Providence University, an evangelical institution in Manitoba, Canada. Michael Gilmour is not a literalist, but clearly takes Scripture seriously while looking at it in terms of what might be called the message behind the message, that is, what it is saying in light of its cultural and historical context, and--this is important to him, as it should be to us-- what it means from God's perspective, not just the imperfect human view. At the same time, he is an animal lover and apparently vegetarian, concerned not just with animal "welfare" but also with understanding their culture, history, and experience.
It must be frankly admitted that the Bible presents real challenges to animal lovers. The Hebrew Bible allows killing them and eating their meat at least since the covenant of Noah; it depicts as clever--almost amusing--acts of horrifying cruelty to animals like Samson's tying the tails of foxes together with a flaming torch inserted, and letting them run through the Philistines’ standing grain. Above all there are the dreadful sacrifices offered in the Temple and, earlier, at various other altars, with Leviticus giving the details. The New Testament, though presenting Christ's death on the cross as the final blood-offering which ended centuries of sacred death (in the book of Hebrews), contains such difficulties as Jesus sending demons into swine, who then drowned, or Paul claiming God did not care about oxen -- the prescription against muzzling them as threshing time was only an allegory explaining that, in modern terms, preachers of the gospel ought to be financially supported.
Of course there are positive indications too: Proverbs 12:10 on the righteous caring for the needs of their animals, the sensitive words of Jesus about God knowing even the fall of a sparrow, the four mighty beasts praising God in the Book of Revelation. There are prophetic lines like those in Isaiah 1, in which God rejects the sacrificial blood of bulls and goats. But, to his credit, Gilmour devotes most attention to the hard passages.
Here he seems to be guided mainly by three principles. First, he recognizes that the Bible reflects a long, slow maturation, under God's guidance, of human awareness of the divine and what it can mean in the life of the world. Thus some things that God allows are not the ideal, but concessions to human needs at the time, like granting the Israelites' desire for a king, or allowing them quail as well as manna in Exodus. One such concession was also the permission to eat meat in the covenant of Noah--after the sacrifice the great navigator offered.
Second, in looking at the biblical narrative from God's perspective, we must always bear in mind that God sees the whole of his creation, not just the human part. Thus, when the Bible speaks of "all creation," "all flesh," and the like, fish, birds, and beasts are included too. This is supremely expressed in Paul's great lines in Romans 8 about the whole created universe groaning till the children of God be revealed.
Third, looking at Scripture through the Creator's eyes means looking at the role of animals in it as for their own sake, not just in relation to humans. Thus the animals that accompanied Noah two-by-two on the Ark were not there only for their benefit to humans, but for their own salvation as well. Gilmour makes much of the delivery of God's message to Balaam through his donkey, and to Peter through Michael J. Gilmour
the crowing of a cock -- this means that animals can have a key role as God's ambassadors.
To be sure, there were times when I felt a sense of straining to make the Bible come out right in terms of animals, and of the many unanswered questions--some of
which Gilmour is aware of--left in the wake of that effort. What about the many innocent animals who were killed in the story of the great flood, as well as the few who were saved? The author contends that the sacrifices really ennoble the victim, making him a sacred object as an envoy between humans and God. But, although we humans cannot fully share the subjectivity of animals, I have some doubt that those bulls, sheep, and goats felt exalted, rather than terrified, as they were forced amid incense toward the bloody table and knife.
This wish may seem blasphemous to some, but I could not help wishing that we had a Bible with at least one of the smaller books devoted to expounding more fully the brief message of Proverbs 12:10. And for myself I would not rule out any sacred guidance coming down in the future as our spirituality matures still more, and perhaps also that of the animals who share our precarious planet.
Finally, readers of The Peaceable Table may appreciate the last chapter, "Returning to the Garden: The Writings of William Bartram." Though a little surprising in this book’s context, this section presents the accounts of Bartram, a Quaker, who traveled throughout what is now the southeast United States including Florida, in 1771-77. In 1791 he published a remarkable book on this experience; it was mostly about nature, the various plant and animal species, what we would call ecology; sometimes the descriptions portray unspoiled nature as virtually Eden. Perhaps Bartram's work is intended to suggest what a missing book of the Bible might be like?
Eden's Other Residents is highly recommended to all with animal concerns who find biblical studies interesting and important. Whether or not all issues are resolved, readers will come away with provocative new perspectives on the ancient text.
Recipe: Gracia Fay’s Stir-Fry
¾ cup brown basmati ricebroccoliStir-Fry.jpg
1 ⅔ cup water or veggie broth
1 ½ c. frozen Potatoes O’Brien, thawed
(or medium-to-small fresh potato, chopped)
1 ½ c. broccoli florets, cut small
1 medium purple onion, chopped
1 or 2 medium carrot[s], sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 large collard leaves, cut in wide ribbons
⅓ sweet red pepper, chopped
1 ½ cup peas
1 Apple Sage sausage, sliced (brand name
4-5 medium mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp. soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
1 teas. olive oil
1 teas. turmeric
Take out the frozen spuds and peas, and spread out to thaw. Put the rice on to cook with the water or veggie broth; after the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and set timer for 23-25 minutes. Check rice when nearing completion. Chop the veggies, mushrooms, and sausage. Remove the thick part of the collard stems before cutting in strips.
(If you’ve never used Field Roast sausages, remember to remove plastic casing. Slice thinly with firm, quick strokes to prevent crumbling, then cut the slices in half.) The sausage is very savory, and really makes the dish.
In non-stick skillet, place ½ teas. oil (if you use fresh potatoes, you will need more, as they tend to stick to the pan). First saute the broccoli, carrots and, if relevant, fresh potato pieces. When partly cooked, add the rest of the oil, the veggies, thawed potatoes, and mushrooms; wait with the sweet pepper, garlic, turmeric, and peas. Shortly before serving, add the pepper, peas, and flavorings, just enough to heat; pepper and peas should retain their color. Soy sauce is tasty but contains much salt.
Spread the stir-fry on a bed of rice, and enjoy. Serves 3.
Poetry: Harvey Gillman
Meeting at Glenthorne
We met in silence, the cows and I,
in the long wet grass, in worship they,
ruminating I. They sat. I stood
by the wooden fence that set apart
the sprawling house from the winding path
that climbed in awe to the passing clouds.CowsGrass_.jpg
Again I saw the hill I climbed before,
angels ascending, descending,
stepping lightly on the unploughed earth.
From time to time the cows gave ministry
--a snort, a shuffling, a flick of tail.
I waited with cool reverence
upon the herd's hard wisdom.
Their eyes were heavy
with eternity and rain.
They sat with grace
Upon the damp earth beneath.
Time enough for miracles.
The author is a Quaker, a member of the Sussex West Area Meeting of Friends. Reprinted with his permission and that of Quaker Concern for Animals.