Speaking to the Heart
In previous issues, this column has dealt with the Biblical theme of Exile as a symbol helpful to illuminate the feelings of animal defenders who find themselves no longer feeling at home in their spiritual communities because their message of compassion for animals has been rejected and their motives misunderstood or abused. Another helpful image, loosely linked to Exile, is the theme of Desert; to this I now turn.
The Original Story
The ancient narrative of Israel's Exodus from slavery in Egypt and subsequent journey to the Promised Land includes a long period of passage through wilderness or desert. The somewhat archaic term "wilderness," though harder for us to visualize than "desert," is appropriate because "wild-" suggests a place inhospitable to human life, the opposite of home and belongingness. In this trackless wasteland the people are lost and dependent on God's guidance via a pillar of cloud moving ahead of them by day, becoming a stationary pillar of fire by night. They wander for forty years, the number forty coming to represent such a period of distress and dependency.
Water, essential to human life, is scarce. Occasionally they are led to oases, but at one point, when they feel thirst is about to claim their lives, Moses at God's command opens a miraculous fountain from a great rock. Food is likewise hard to find. The people are dependent on manna, the "bread from heaven," that appears on the ground in the early mornings. Invariable manna finally gets tedious, and the people crave flesh. This God reluctantly provides in the form a great flock of quails, but as the people are eating the bodies of the birds, God is angered by their greed (and perhaps also their violence).
The wilderness journey is a period of closeness to God, with signs and wonders, but also of need, frustration, uncertainty, fear, boredom, of forced dependence on an inscrutable Providence. Often that Providence acts on their behalf, but at other times lashes out violently at them. Finally, after long wanderings, the next generation reaches the Promised Land of plenty, but most of those who left Egypt "fell in the wilderness."
Wilderness as Symbol
Biblical writers describing later times draw on this theme of the wilderness journey, promising a renewal of Exodus to a new generation mired in idolatry and oppression. Examples from the Hebrew scriptures are Elijah's flight from Jezebel, the promised return from exile in Babylon in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, and the passage in Hosea in which God expresses a desire for reconciliation with his erring people: "I will draw her into the desert, and there I will speak tenderly to her [or "speak to her heart"]." In the Gospels, Jesus is moved by the Spirit to go into the wilderness for forty days, where he fasts, lives with wild animals, and interacts with angels. The liturgical season of Lent also draws on this image. The familiar line from the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," has in its background Israel's total dependence on God for the day's manna.
Christian mystics have made use of the wilderness theme to represent an arduous phase in the relationship of the soul seeking union with God. At some point, after an awakening, or blissful initial experience of union, the soul finds "herself" (rarely, "himself") painfully separated from her Beloved, often from human friends as well, and desperate with longing. She feels lost in a waterless wasteland where nothing grows: "Ah, how long I've panted /And my heart has fainted, / Thirsting, Lord for thee . . . ." The period of loneliness may go on for a very long time. Eventually, however, the mystic comes to perceive a transformative Presence in the Nothingness: God tenderly "speaks to her heart" without words, conveying a lifegiving Something that the mind cannot comprehend. This divine fullness is not received in the midst of the comfortable, the familiar, the safe. It is offered only when all that upon which we ordinarily depend is withdrawn: in the wilderness.
The Seeking Heart
There is no way to show someone going through the wilderness how to assuredly receive this Gift, for it is, in its essence, found in total dependence on God. It can help, however, simply to know that it exists, that it has been experienced by those undergoing the wilderness. Another thing that can help is the suggestion of spiritual teacher Tilden Edwards that we address God, either during prayer/meditation, or during the day's activities, in the form of a question, as though we were groping in the darkness for him/her: "Beloved? Beloved?" The interrogative can help us get beyond the tendency of words repeatedly used in prayer to lose their meaning, and can help us keep attuned to the Source from moment to moment.
Heart Speaking to Heart
As we learn to keep our heart turned seekingly to God, we can increasingly receive grace to speak to the hearts of others. When members of our churches/spiritual communities resist the message of compassion and insist on their right to (kill and) eat animals, especially when they are implicitly or explicitly abusive, our immediate temptation is to withdraw in pain, or respond in kind to the hostility in the speaker's words or tone. Either response is almost always counterproductive. Instead, out of the divine Presence-in-Nothingness in our own hearts, we can learn to speak to their hearts, where the divine Light which is Love lies hidden. Light reflects Light, Love kindles Love. Sometimes the process will result in the awakening of Love in the other in this area of life where it was dormant, and the other will have, in George Fox's phrase, a "great opening."
Sometimes there seems to be no response. We may or may not continue to work actively with them, but consigning them to the realm of Outsiders is not an option; they remain flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. Most of us can recall past times when we closed our ears to an unwelcome divine challenge to "Follow me," and the bright coal of Love in our hearts remained banked over. We can be grateful that God did not then give up on us.
At the landscaped Great Ape Trust center in Des Moines, Iowa, primatologists Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, William Fields and colleagues are studying the potentials of bonobos to communicate by means of visual symbols and participate in culture. Their stars are a 27-year-old bonobo named Kanzi and his sister Panbanisha, who came here recently from a Georgia State University center. The siblings' story began after frustrating years during which other scientists had tried to teach their mother, Matata, to learn eight basic symbols. One day the infant Kanzi just climbed up on the computer "and started communicating away, like a little Mozart bent over the keyboard." Moral: one has to start young.
Kanzi is an assertive personality, who stares at visitors and, through gestures, makes demands on humans (e.g., that they entertain him by chasing each other around the room). Panbanisha isn't interested in showing off, but shows signs of understanding about 6,000 spoken words (e.g., she once went for a key at the spoken request of a researcher who had locked himself into a room), is "an analytical genius," and deeply caring of other bonobos. The researchers are not only professionally interested, but also lovingly attached to their bonobo friends, and horrified at the idea of invasive experiments on such beings.
--Contributed by Robert Ellwood
More people adopt a plant-based diet in the UK
According to the British government’s latest agricultural figures produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), significantly fewer chickens, turkeys and pigs are being killed for meat in the UK. About these encouraging numbers, Viva! campaigns manager, Justin Kerswell, said, “Almost a billion animals are still killed for meat each year in the UK, most of them living appallingly short lives in squalid conditions and facing a terrifying death, so we clearly have a long way to go, but we are winning. Concerns about animal cruelty, health and the state of the planet are growing daily and vegetarianism provides a solution to all of them. It’s needed like never before.” To read the full article please visit www.arkangelweb.org/international/uk/
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Feline Hospice Worker
A kitten named Oscar was adopted two years ago to be resident cat-friend for the patients on the third-floor dementia unit of a Providence, Rhode Island nursing center. This sensible but otherwise unremarkable action was -- well, Providential. The handsome tabby-and-white cat turns out to have a gift for perceiving when a patient is within two to four hours of making the final passage, and will then hop onto the bed and curl up beside her or him. Most patients are probably unaware of his presence and thus do not see him as a harbinger of death, says Dr. David Dosa, geriatrician and assistant professor at Brown University, reporting on Oscar in the July issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Ordinarily rather aloof, Oscar is faithful in performing his self-chosen duties, to the point where the staff profits from his actions to notify the patient's family to come to make their good-byes. In one instance, when attendants thought death was imminent and Oscar took no interest, they turned out to be wrong; the patient in fact had about ten hours left. Oscar came in on time to do his job.
--Contributed by Robert Ellwood
When things look grim, a little laughter can be a blessing:
Advertisement in Washington paper:
"Capital Pet Animal Hospital--Dogs Called For, Fleas Removed and Returned to You for $10.00."
News Item in South African paper:
"Colonel Hamilton said there had been no appreciable increase in the number of lions in the last three years and he attributed this to the higher morality among young lions."
From a short story:
"I was terrified . . . . There was a tiger crouching, ready to bounce."
From The Sun:
"Before its late summer departure the sparrow will build several nests and bear many little sparrows, judging from past performances. Mrs. Hetherington said she had not had the same luck with male birds.
--From It Must Be True by Denys Parsons
Film Review: Evan Almighty
A Universal Pictures film directed by Tom Shadyac and starring Steve Carrell as Evan Baxter, Lauren Graham as Joan Baxter, Morgan Freeman as God, John Goodman as Congressman Long, and Wanda Sykes as Rita.
This film, actively promoted to religious groups, raised the criticism that it contradicts the Flood story in Genesis 8, in which God affirms he will not destroy the earth again. In fact there is no such conflict; God does not destroy anything, but instead prevents destruction and preserve life. The film's flood is caused not by divine decree but by human greed. The inundation is far from being worldwide; it wipes out one suburb of Washington, D.C., with damage to the city itself, but with no loss of life.
The film is undeniably a comedy, but does not lampoon the biblical God. It portrays him, like the God of David, as wanting us to dance in devout joy, no matter how much that may offend the humorless. Like the God of Jesus, he wants to teach and heal rather than smite and punish. Like the God of the first creation story in Genesis, he gives humanity dominion to protect and help animals, not to oppress and exploit them.
The arrival of animals from remote areas of the world is not easy to explain in plot terms, for the South American Andes from which the alpacas come, and the African Serengeti from which the zebras come, are not threatened by this local US flood--though they face their own human-made threats. Since the film's God is shown to be very much concerned about animals and their habitats, a sympathetic viewer may reason that God brings them together to remind humans of their beauty and diversity, and the dangers they face as a result of human irresponsibility and greed. And, perhaps, to made it clear how sensitive the creatures are to the divine will and intentions, in sharp contrast to humans, who ridicule and resist the Ark project, despite the evident miracle of the gathering of the animals, until the thundering waters come rolling down upon them. These are lessons one may learn from the film if one so chooses, but they are not spelled out.
One thing that is spelled out is that the beasts come in loving pairs, strongly united family units. The Heavenly Grandfather certainly intends that Evan's family becomes more united and loving, an intention that finds wonderful fruition. None of Evan's three sons would post an embarrassing and humiliating video of this father on the Internet. This is a far happier outcome for the hero than the original Noah experienced--what satisfaction can there be in being a vindicated prophet, if you lose your son's respect? Evan's family members, who love him to begin with, learn to love him even more.
The animals give active help in building the ark: the elephants haul and raise the great timbers; the baboons fetch tools and water. But a lot more could and should have been done in this department. Both orangutans and chimpanzees are very strong, and very handy with tools; they could have contributed a good deal. I confess to having been disappointed with these missed opportunities, but I quite agree with the movie's messages: Vote to protect the wilderness. Do Acts of Random Kindness (ARK). Dance shamelessly before God.
Here are some quickie recipes and tips for those who don't spend much time in the kitchen:
Chocolate soy milk
Chocolate rice milk
Vanilla soy milk (optional)
Vanilla rice milk (optional)
Fill a tall glass half full of chocolate soy milk (preferably made with fair-trade chocolate), and half full of chocolate rice milk. Something magical takes place in the combination, and you end up with the most incredible milkshake-like dessert drink!
Variations on the theme: To get a chocolate sundae flavor effect: Do half chocolate soy milk and half vanilla rice milk, OR vice versa, half chocolate rice milk and half vanilla soy milk.
Drink up (down?) and enjoy!
--Virginia Iris Holmes
For those who like understated flavoring and sweetening in a soymilk drink:
Unsweetened soy milk
1 T. carob powder
1 scant teas. agave nectar or vegan sugar
Measure out a mugful of soymilk, put on flame, and stir in a scant teaspoon of sugar or agave nectar. In the mug, place a tablespoon of carob powder (or more or less, to taste). Add about half a tablespoon of the soymilk, and mix to make a smooth, thick paste. Add another half-tablespoon to thin the paste. Pour the hot soymilk in the mug, stir, and enjoy.
I have this drink at bedtime with a corn cake lightly topped with Earth Balance spread. Yum!
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Soup for Lunch
1 can of Amy's Lentil-Vegetable, Minestrone, or Pasta-3-Bean soup
Canned tomato sauce, unsalted
1 or 2 small fresh vegetables, chopped
Heat up the soup. Add a few tablespoonfuls of canned unsalted tomato sauce to taste. Chop up a fresh vegetable or two--broccoli, onion, cauliflower, potato, spinach, whatever. Thin as needed with a few spoonfuls of yestereve's vegetable broth. Simmer until veggie is cooked--about 5 minutes for (diced) dense vegetables, two minutes for fragile leaf veggies. Remove from heat. Flavor if desired with about a quarter-teaspoon of minced garlic.
This is almost as quick as just heating up a can of soup, but the fresh veggie[s] add much nutritive value, and the tomato sauce and the broth not only add further vitamins, but also dilute the excess salt most canned soups contain. If several veggies are added and thus more broth is needed, garlic can more than restore the flavor. As a garlic-lover, I keep on hand fresh garlic, minced garlic in a jar, and garlic powder, to be used according to the food and the amount of time available.
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
Cooking Leafy and Other Veggies
Anyone who reads books on vegan nutrition knows how important it is to limit oils and eat lots of veggies, especially leafy greens, but may still find it hard to work up enthusiasm for the latter. The following tips might hearten those who regard vegetables with a lackluster eye:
Scrub carrots, parsnips, or potatoes with a clean dishcloth under the faucet. Cut up leafy greens with a scissors. For collards or other greens with fleshy stems, I cut away the stem (including most of the central "vein") first, then fold over and cut the rest of the leaf across into wide strips.
Cabbage is very handy as well as nutritious, as it lasts practically forever in the fridge, and when shredded cooks in two or three minutes. Removing and saving the first leaf or two for re-wrapping helps preserve the freshness of the head.
Sweet potatoes and especially yams are a nutritional powerhouse. Scrub and dry, pierce here and there with a fork, and bake at about 400 F for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size.
Stir-frying makes for the best taste for most veggies, but the non-stop stirring required takes more time and effort, so this one is not really a quickie. With a teflon pan one needs only a teaspoon of oil, preferably olive or canola. Do all chopping or dicing first. Put dense veggies in pan at medium-high heat; when half-cooked add lighter ones such as onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, collards; about two minutes before removing, add any spinach, kale, or chard. Season.
Steam veggies when available time and attention are limited: collards 6-8 minutes; spinach, kale, chard or other fragile greens only about two-three minutes. I set the timer or just stand over the pot and count to 120, as a lot is lost in palatability after that. Remove from heat and pour out broth, or greens will continue to cook.
My spouse relishes any and all steamed greens, even cold, and finds them irresistible with a splash of vinegar. Lacking his catholic palate, and upheld by my work-first-fun-afterwards calvinist ethic, I usually eat them plain, and remind myself that they are really quite a pleasant alternative to chemotherapy.
Here's to Veganism and Veggies!
--Gracia Fay Ellwood
A Sense of Calling
I have always been fond of animals. I had misgivings about working in an animal research laboratory as a tenth grader, which seemed at the time like a good "pre-med" thing to do. I initially convinced myself that vivisection was a necessary evil, but time and again I witnessed animals suffering more than the research required. I remember a beagle being slapped hard on the head because he was
Steve Kaufman with dog friend Zoe
shaking with fear while the technician struggled to place an intravenous catheter. I was deeply disturbed by seeing that dog punished for being a "bad" victim of animal experimentation.
Everything clicked during my sophomore year of college, when I read a New York Times Magazine feature article on animal experimentation. After next reading Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, I felt obligated to help stop the massive institutionalized abuse of nonhuman animals. Initially, most of my activism addressed the vivisection issue, where I had particular expertise and credentials as a doctor. I found that a close examination of the scientific literature reveals profound difficulties with animal models and, with Dr. Murry Cohen, I helped generate booklets and symposia on animal experimentation.
In early 2000, I heard about the Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA), a group conceived by several people, including the Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman, and founded by Nathan Braun. This dovetailed with my growing Christian spirituality, and I shortly became very involved in the group. Now serving as the group's chair, I have helped guide the CVA into a strong voice for Christian vegetarianism and animal advocacy. We distribute over 150,000 copies of our 16-page color booklet (now entitled "Are We Good Stewards of God's Creation") at Christian concerts, revivals, and other events. We have developed a 26-minute video and a 3-part Christian Education curriculum. Nathan and I have co-written a book Good News for All Creation: Vegetarianism as Christian Stewardship (See review May 2005 PT.) I am presently at work on a book about Christianity and violence, which should be available by the end of the year.
I have found CVA activism exciting and rewarding. Our degree of success would not be possible without the dedicated efforts of Lorena Mucke, Paris Harvey, the Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman, and many others. We have become a Christian community, united in our dedication to serve God in part by serving God's creatures.
--Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
Pioneer: Donald Watson, 1910-2005
Englishman Donald Watson, who with his wife Dorothy coined the term "vegan," was born into a large extended family in Yorkshire. In his early teens he awakened to the issue of exploitation of and violence against animals, and became a vegetarian with his parents' permission. Later he joined the (British) Vegetarian Society.
During WWII there was much discussion and debate in its periodical The Vegetarian Messenger as to whether human use of dairy products was ethically acceptable. Although remaining in the Vegetarian Society, in 1944 the Watsons, together with a group of others who had stopped consuming dairy for ethical reasons, formed the Vegan Society, the term being taken from the first and last syllables of "vegetarian." Donald Watson edited its new quarterly periodical, The Vegan News, (soon changed to The Vegan), received thousands of letters, and had to limit its subscribers to 500 because of the volume of work it required.
A teacher of woodworking, Watson was fond of bicycling, hiking, and gardening; producing his own organic fruits and vegetables was important to him throughout his active life. His survival in good health to age 95 became an excellent advertisement for his lifestyle.
A friend described him as "a very gentle man, quite intellectual, very knowledgeable and a very caring person."
One of my earliest recollections is of holidays on my Uncle George's farm where I was surrounded by interesting animals. They all "gave" something: the farm horse pulled the plough, the lighter horse pulled the trap, the cows "gave" milk, the hens "gave" eggs and the cockerel was a useful "alarm clock"--I didn't realise at that time that he had another function too. The sheep "gave" wool. I could never understand what the pigs "gave", but they seemed such friendly creatures--always glad to see me. Then the day came when one of the pigs was killed. I still have vivid recollections of the whole process--including the screams . . . . One thing that shocked me was that my Uncle George, of whom I thought very highly, was part of the crew. I decided that farms--and uncles--had to be reassessed: the idyllic scene was nothing more than Death Row, where every creature's days were numbered by the point at which [he or she] was no longer of service to human beings. I lived at home for 21 years and in the whole of that time I never heard a word from my parents, my grandparents, my 22 uncles and aunts, my 16 cousins, my teachers or my vicar on anything remotely associated with any duties we might have to "God's Creation". . . .
--From an online interview
The unquestionable cruelty associated with the production of dairy produce has made it clear that lacto-vegetarianism is but a half-way house between flesh-eating and a truly humane, civilised diet, and we think, therefore, that during our life on earth we should try to evolve sufficiently to make the "full journey".
We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals's bodies. . . .
We question very strongly whether those dieticians who laud the praises of animal proteins have ever tried living on a sensible diet free from such proteins, and if they have not, we fail to see how they can pass useful judgment. We know that man's anatomy is unquestionably frugivorous. We know that milk drinking by adults is an absurdity never intended by Nature. . . . . We know what happens to those who feed on the 'nourishing first-class proteins' recommended by orthodox dieticians--they nearly all die of malignant . . . diseases. . . .
Humbly, your Secretary [Watson himself] is able to state that he can now cycle 230 miles in a day, whereas years ago when he stoked himself with milk and eggs he was ready for Bed and Breakfast after doing half that distance. He can also dig his [gardens] for ten hours a day without feeling any different next morning, but we must be careful in making claims . . . . We may be sure that should anything so much as a pimple ever appear to mar the beauty of our physical form, it will be entirely due in the eyes of the world to our own silly fault for not eating 'proper food'. Against such a pimple the great plagues of diseases now ravaging nearly all members of civilised society (who live on 'proper food') will pass unnoticed. . . .
--From the first issue of The Vegan News, Nov., 1944
Photo, by Joseph Connolly, shows Watson rereading
the first issue of The Vegan News
Poetry: Ash Wednesday
. . . . Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
. . . . Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
--Thomas Stearns Eliot
Photo of Donald Watson by Joseph Connolly
The Peaceable Table is
intended to resume the witness of that excellent vehicle of the Friends
Vegetarian Society of North America, The Friendly
Vegetarian, which appeared quarterly between 1982 and
1995. Following its example, and sometimes borrowing from its
treasures, we publish articles for toe-in-the-water
vegetarians as well as long-term ones, poetry, letters, book
and film reviews, and recipes.
The journal is intended to be
interactive; contributions, including illustrations, are
invited for the next issue. Deadline for the October issue
will be September 27, 2007. Send to email@example.com
or 10 Krotona Hill, Ojai, CA 93023. We operate primarily
online in order to save trees and labor, but hard copy
is available for interested persons who are not online.
The latter are asked to donate $12 (USD) per year if their means allow. Other
donations to offset the cost of the domain name, server and
advertising notices are welcome.
Photo of Donald Watson by Joseph Connolly, VegNews, Summer 2005.
Editor: Gracia Fay Ellwood
Book and Film Reviewers: Benjamin Urrutia & Robert Ellwood
Recipe Editor: Angela Suarez
NewsNotes Contributors: Marian Hussenbux & Lorena Mucke
Technical Architect: Richard Scott Lancelot Ellwood