Guest Editorial: Touching People
By Pam Ahern
Pam Ahern and friend Wilbur
Two incidents in my work on behalf of animals will stay with me forever.
We were running a campaign booth at a market just north of Geelong (a major city in Victoria, Australia). Wilbur "Bur," the sanctuary pig, was having a little "kip" after a heavy morning campaigning, so I was “working the crowd solo,” although Bur did have the courtesy to flake out on his bed in full view of everyone, thereby still attracting a crowd. On my asking a man with his young daughter by his side if he was concerned about animal cruelty, he replied, “Nah, I kill ‘em, I’m a slaughterman.”
“Oh well, you’d be interested in our campaign against the live export of sheep and cattle to the Middle East.”
He looked at me as if I was mad. “Are you aware that they are also exporting jobs just like yours? That abattoirs have even had to close
as a result of this trade?” He stopped in his tracks, paused and thought a second “Ok, I’ll sign,” he said. He was a huge man, at least 6 feet 6; I had to crane my head back to look him in the eye. As we walked to our information table, I asked “So where about on the line do you work?”
“I knock em.” He punched the words out as if to offend me.
“Oh I see, so what species do you kill?”
At this point he just looked at me, a little puzzled by
my polite interest. “Sheep.”
I probed: “Oh right, gee that must be tough, I bet you have to go
fast.” “Yep, 4,500 a day I knock.”
“That’s a hell of a lot, do you ever miss?”
“It must be tough on you, do they get scared?”
By now the rough façade was dropping and he was staring me right in the eye, “S___, yeah mate, they are s___ scared and I hate it, I really hate
“You poor thing, I really feel for you.” I didn’t know what else to say. Here we were, what many would consider the natural born enemies of each other, but somehow I didn’t hate this guy; I liked him, I hated his job. If our circumstances were different, who knows?
“Yep, you should see their eyes, they’re terrified,” he sniffed, wiping at his nose with his sleeve “but I gotta feed my family, what else can I do, I gotta feed my family.” I wished right then and there I had the answer; I wished I could have offered him a job. He stood there a second longer, his chin quivering, his eyes glazed, sniffing.
I looked away, as did the young girl. “Hang in there, mate,” was all I could offer, as I gently touched his elbow; he sniffed again and quickly hurried off. Sometime later I saw the same man leaving the market. He looked my way, his eyes still misty with remorse. I looked at him and nodded, “Hang in there, mate.”
Clearly this was not the first time he had really thought about what he was doing. It obviously troubled him greatly. I guess it would have been easier for him had I been rude or abrupt; it would have justified his façade. But I was kind; all day I thought of him, I still do, I can only imagine his pain. I remember well reading that people do not change because someone is rude to them. I guess it is one of the challenges of what we do; I can sympathize with those who would have loved to have told him he was a jerk, a paid assassin, but what would that achieve? Where was his escape? It’s easy for us to condemn him and God knows I hate what he does. I mentally imagined the speed at which he would dispatch my beautiful ovine friends, forty-three of them, I later worked out, would be dead in less than five minutes, providing his figures were accurate. This guy is sitting on the cusp of change, he is struggling with his conscience and I pray he has the courage to keep listening to it, for there is never a point in a person’s life where they cannot say “I am not going to be a part of this any more.”
Pam and Wilbur enjoying a much-needed "kip"
The next incident happened at a country market. An elderly gentlemen walked past Bur and I asked if he was interested in what we were doing. He replied “No, yous are all anti-farmer.”
“Well no, we’re not, but we are anti-animal cruelty. Surely you would agree with that, no one likes cruelty to animals.” Taking a brochure he eyed me and Bur, only to return a short while later. “Hi there,” I offered, “did you have a chance to read the leaflet?”
“Yeah I did, I used to work at a piggery, you know”, he said, as he knelt down to talk to Bur. He wasn’t looking for an answer, just a chance to talk to Bur. “How you going, mate?” he said as he took Bur’s head in his hand. On cue, Bur shut his eyes, put on his “happy face” and pressed his head into the old man’s hands. "But we had to do it, we really had to do it, I hated doing it. What they used to do to those poor sows, aw...”
I was having trouble hearing the chap now and I didn’t want to interrupt his private moment with a pig. I doubt he had ever had the chance to chat honestly to one like he was now, so I eavesdropped some more, but I think at this point he was oblivious to me. “Aw mate, you really are a lovely, lovely piggy aren’t you, aw I hated it.”
Then there was silence; looking down to see what brought this about, I saw the old man just holding the smiling Bur’s head in the palm of his hands. By whatever reasoning I do not know, but Bur was managing to keep still for more than a second; did he know this was a truly special moment for the old guy, or was he just plain tired?
A lone tear rolled down the old guy’s cheek, he ever so subtly wiped
at it. Trying to move the lump in my throat, I began talking to another passerby, but couldn’t help but hear what I thought were the words “I’m sorry.” A short time later he stood up, turned to me and said “Sure, I’ll sign your letters, show me where.”
Pam Ahern is the founder and director of
Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary www.edgarsmission.org.au
Reprinted from the Spring, 2008 Newsletter of Quaker Concern for Animals quaker-animals.org.uk, click on "Writings."
Dolphin with Compassion and Skill-in-Means
Earlier this month, two whales trapped in shallow water off the coast of New Zealand seemed about to reach a fatal end after volunteers, despite many efforts, couldn't get them to return to the open waters. Surprisingly, Moko the dolphin, a regular visitor to the coast of Mahia on the east side of New Zealand's North Island, came right up to the stranded mother and calf whales and led them out to sea. Witnesses said, "Quite clearly the attitude of the whales changed when the dolphin arrived on the scene. They responded virtually straight away,". . . "The dolphin managed in a couple of minutes what we had failed to do in an hour and a half." To read the full article, visit www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/nz. whales.ap/index.html
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Christian Vegetarian Association www.christianveg.com
and Judy Carman,
author of Peace to All Beings
O hidden Life, vibrant in every atom,
O hidden Light, shining in every creature,
O hidden Love, embracing all in oneness,
May each who feels at one with thee
Know she is therefore one with all.
--Annie Wood Besant (altered)
(For a Pioneer column from the writings of Annie Besant, see PT Issue 9, April 2005
"The butcher relenteth not at the bleating of the lamb; neither is the heart of the cruel moved with distress. But the tears of the compassionate are sweeter than dew-drops, falling from roses on the bosom of spring."
--Amenohis IV, aka Akhenaten (1353 - 1335 BCE)
--Contributed by Lorena Mucke
Book Review: Farm Sanctuary
Baur, Gene. Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food. New York: Simon & Schuster Touchstone Books, 2008. $25.00 hardcover.
This is an important book for anyone involved in the vegetarian, vegan, and animal protection movements, or who even has a simple concern for animals. Here is the self-told story of one of the most remarkable individuals in all those movements, Gene Baur, and of the influential center he and Lorri Bauston established: Farm Sanctuary.
Gene Baur was raised in the city, in Los Angeles not far from Griffith Park. As a high school and college student, affected by the activism of the 1970s and 80s, he became increasingly interested in ecology and social change. He worked for Ralph Nader's group and for Greenpeace, learning about animal advocacy from people he met in these circles. By 1986 he and his then-wife, Lorri, were living in Wilmington, Delaware, where they incorporated Farm Sanctuary. They did not yet have much of an idea where this project would lead beyond what they were already avidly doing, distributing literature on animal issues. But before long they were rescuing "downer" animals, beginning with Hilda the sheep, from a stockyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They housed them first in their backyard, later at a sympathetic farm. In the process they learned a great deal indeed about the realities of the animal industry.
The work went through several vicissitudes, but in 1990 Gene, Lorri, and the animals settled at the activity's present location, the Farm Sanctuary site near Watkins Glen, in the pleasant Finger Lake area of upstate New York. Another Farm Sanctuary center was opened in 1993 in Orland, om northern California, within sight of spectacularly beautiful Mt. Shasta.
In the summer of 2006 Gracia Fay and I had the privilege of visiting the Watkins Glen establishment. Visit this miniature paradise yourself if you possibly can. First of all, it looks like a traditional picture-book farm – of which far too few are left – with a big rambling house, winding lanes, scattered red barns, equipment in sight. It has big penned-in green areas open to the barns that allow various animals and birds, such as pigs, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, and turkeys, to move in and out as freely as they wish. It is a treat to be able to visit and pet these gentle dwellers at the Farm who deeply appreciate the human kindness they have found here, if nowhere else.
In his book Gene Baur combines accounts of life Farm Sanctuary with descriptions, often grueling, of the conditions from which his guests have been rescued. Nugget "bios" of particular animals – Hilda, Maya, Phoebe, and others – show that animals can have stories and personalities as distinctive as their names. The author also provides the reader with a good account of agribusiness, and the legal and legislative struggles in which he has been involved on behalf of animals. Not all the news is good, but overall Baur is able to highlight tremendous changes in public awareness of the last two decades or so, and to celebrate significant victories. The overall message of the book, as Gene makes clear at the end, is upbeat: times are changing, and there is reason for hope.
It remains to state that Farm Sanctuary is a tribute to the author himself, a man who has shown how much two individuals – Gene and Lorri -- can do, and how much those persons themselves can change in the process of making change in the world. They started off uncertain what to do, though bearing a powerful concern that would not let them go unless they acted. They learned, often from the animals themselves, how to forgive hurt and move on. We need many more people like Gene Baur and Lorri – the latter now founder-director of Animal Acres in southern California, a wonderful work similar in nature to Farm Sanctuary.
Purchase this book, read it, and pass it on.
-- Robert Ellwood
Film Review: The Bee Movie
The Bee Movie. A computer-animated film written by Jerry Seinfeld et.al. Starring Jerry Seinfeld as Barry B. Benson and Renee Zollweger as Vanessa Bloome. 2007. Released on DVD in March, 2008.
The hero of the story, Barry B. Benson, is a youngster just out of college who is supposed to be signing up for a job as a honey-stirrer. However, Barry wants to explore his options, and the world, before setting down, so he joins a nectar-gathering expedition.
Barry learns that the world is a very hazardous place for bees, and that one of the principal reasons therefor is Humans. For example, when trapped inside an automobile Barry sees a sweet human infant girl who waves and greets him with "Hi, Bee!" He waves back but keeps silent in obedience to the apian law that bees must never speak to humans. The older children, and of course the adults, freak out and try to kill him. He escapes from this dangerous situation only to find himself again in danger of death from a fearful human. This time he is saved by a human, Vanessa Bloome, a florist who (rightly) believes that all life is sacred.
Now with a protector, Barry can explore the Homo Sapiens-controlled world, and discovers that these gigantic creatures possess huge quantities of honey. How is this possible, when they do not even communicate with bees? Barry does some detective work and discovers the terrible truth: the big bipeds hold bees in hives that are really slave-labor camps, and take the honey for themselves with no recompense (a clear commentary on totalitarian regimes of distant and recent memory).
Barry decides to initiate a lawsuit to have the bees' property given back. He is successful, and the honey is returned; but now a new problem appears: with plenty of honey, the bees have no reason to keep working. Furthermore, without pollination, all the plant life of the world is dying. Barry and Vanessa go into action to solve this problem by taking all the pollen-filled flowers from the Pasadena Rose Parade and bringing them back to New York, an adventure in which they are obliged to take control of the plane from the pilots and land it safely. Eventually the honey is given back to the humans, and bees and humans develop a mutually respectful relationship.
There are a number of ways in which this story lightly departs from the facts of apian life. Whereas worker bees are in fact all female, the apian work force here seems to be largely male. Furthermore, a male bee in the story stings, whereas in fact only females sting, because a bees stinger is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying organ). The film does point out, correctly, that for a bee to sting is to commit suicide. Another example is that Barry comes from a nuclear family, with a father and mother who love and nag him, whereas in real life the queen bee is the only one who reproduces her whole community. (This discrepancy is pointed out by a human lawyer later in the film, but no one gives any satisfactory explanation.) Still another is that real bees communicate by a complex dance that reveals the location of flowers and other vital data, whereas here they speak English but have a law forbidding them to use it with humans--obviously to their own disadvantage, especially when dealing with panicky humans unaware that they mean no harm.
The story is entertaining, with allusions to well-known films and books of the past such as the Winnie the Pooh stories. But the "sting" of its critique of humans as exploiters of bees is largely undercut by having the stolen honey given back to humans after all.
Film Review: Spiderwick Chronicles
The Spiderwick Chronicles. A film directed by Mark Waters, based on the five Spiderwick novels by Holly Black. Starring Freddie Highmore as Simon Grace and Jared Grace, Sarah Bolger as Mallory Grace, Mary-Louise Parker as their mother, David Straithairn as Arthur Spiderwick, and Nick Nolte as Mulgarath. 2008.
A divorced mother and her three children inherit a haunted mansion in New England, to discover it is surrounded by invisible mythological creatures. One of them, Mulgarath, is a genocidal shape-shifting ogre who wants to get his greedy claws on the Field Guide to Fairies written by Professor Arthur Spiderwick, former owner of the house who has been carried off into the Fairie realm. The villainous Mulgarath believes that possession of this scholarly volume will enable him to learn secrets that will enable him to control or exterminate all the faerie races. In the ensuing struggle, Mulgarath's goblins gain several crucial pages of the book, and the children have to enter the Fairie realm and bring Arthur back for a time to help defeat Mulgarath. The story is very original and full of surprises. Though a longtime conoisseur of fantasy fiction, over and over again I thought: "I didn't see that coming!"
Two of the children, identical twins Simon and Jared, are played, in an astounding tour de force, by the very talented young actor Freddie Highmore. It is a tribute to his skills that there was never any doubt in my mind, as I saw the film, as to which brother was which. Simon is a bookish and gentle vegetarian who truly loves animals and takes care of as many of them as he can (and would be very comfortable with The Peaceable Table). In the film, we only see four of his creature companions: Tibbs the tabby cat, Byron the Gryphon, and two mice. However, we know from the books that there are many other animals whom he takes care of. (Tibbs is a casualty of the war in the books, but he comes through alive and well in the film, one of the reasons that I prefer the latter.) "I don't do conflict," says the pacifist Simon. Unfortunately, conflict comes looking for him and drags him (literally) kicking and screaming into a war. With his pure heart and kindly spirit he wins over the fearsome-looking Gryphon--which has very good consequences for the outcome of the war.
Freddie Highmore, himself a gentle intellectual, did not have to stretch much, if at all, to play Simon, but Jared was more of a challenge. To portray this angry and rebellious boy, the British-born Freddie had to practice fight scenes and to "access his inner American." (I've had to do the same thing at times, though for very different reasons.) It is Jared who reads the Forbidden Book, though he needs his brother's help for some of the more erudite vocabulary.
The third Grace sibling, older sister Mallory, is an athletic teenager and a champion fencer --a skill that comes in very handy. The three and their mother are the most sympathetic characters I have seen in film in a long time. I cared very strongly for them and wanted them not merely to survive, but to flourish.
I strongly recommend this fabulous family fantasy, both in the five-volume written original and in the film adaptation.
- Review by Benjamin Urrutia
Vegan Oat Cakes
Makes about 9 oat cakes
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 T. brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
⅛ tsp. ground cloves and/or cardamom
2 T. Earth Balance buttery substitute
⅔ cup water
Place the dry ingredients in the food processor with the dough blade. Heat water in a small saucepan or in a tea kettle. When the water is hot, pour 2/3 cup in a mug, add the Earth Balance, and stir until the EB melts. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture. Process until well blended. Allow oats to absorb all the liquid while preheating oven to 350° F. Shape the oat mixture into patties (little cakes), about 3 inches in diameter; ½ inch thick. Place on a non-oiled baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, then using a spatula, turn each cake over. Bake 5 more minutes, then turn back to the other side. Return to oven and bake 7 more minutes.
Serve with jam and vegan cream cheese or vegan cheddar cheese or vegan sausage, or soy yogurt & fruit …. The possibilities are endless.
Norwegian Good (Fruited Slaw)
¼ head small green cabbage, sliced very thin
1 large carrot, grated
2 crisp apples (such as Pink Lady), washed but unpeeled, cut into small chunks
8 dried apricots, cut into slivers
2 T. dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
⅓ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
2 T. vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise or Nayonaise brands)
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. spring water
½ tsp. sea salt, or to taste
In large salad serving bowl, place cabbage, carrot, apples, fruit and nuts.
In a small ceramic bowl, whisk together Nayonaise, sugar, lemon juice, water, and sea salt until well blended. Pour over the cabbage mixture. Toss well and serve with Vegan Oat Cakes.
This recipe was inspired by a Norwegian salad recipe that I found while looking for Scandinavian recipes which may or may not need to be “veganized.” It turned out that almost all the Norwegian recipes I found in an “authentic” Norwegian cookbook were not suitable for vegetarians, let alone vegans. I wasn’t sure what to name this recipe; and I did not like the name “Fruited Slaw” so I asked my good friend Erin for help—thus the name “Norwegian Good” -- so take out a copy of the Beatles' Rubber Soul and enjoy some good food.
Edamame & Ginger Spring Soup
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. fresh grated ginger
2 small red potatoes, well-scrubbed, unpeeled
1 turnip, peeled and cubed
½ lb. frozen shelled edamame
8 cups vegetable broth
Sliced scallion and shredded carrot for garnish
In large soup pot, warm olive oil and add scallions. Sauté until nearly transparent, then add carrots, garlic and ginger. Sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, turnip, edamame and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 30 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and shredded carrot. Serve immediately with crunchy rice crackers.
--- Angela Suarez
Vegan Cream Cheese
Makes about 1 ½ cups
½ cups whole unblanched almonds
⅓ cup spring water
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ cup safflower oil
juice of 1 large lemon
1 T. apple cider vinegar
In blender, process almonds, water and sea salt until very smooth. A little at a time-- with the motor running -- add safflower oil. Stop and scrape the sides of the blender container as needed until the mixture is well blended. Pour into a ceramic bowl and beat in apple cider vinegar and lemon juice with a wooden spoon until smooth and thick. Cover and store in refrigerator, use as one would use cream cheese.
There are many vegan varieties of cream cheese. This is one I would like to share.
It may be used in recipes calling for cream cheese, even one to make a cream cheese frosting.
-- Angela Suarez
Thank you for the latest issue of The Peaceable Table! As always I enjoy the gentle flavor of your newsletter and the lovely artwork & photos, as well your perspective of nonviolence toward those who disagree with the vegetarian lifestyle.
I thought you might like to know that my husband and I are now partners with another friend in a vegan fast food restaurant here in Yuma, Arizona! You can check us out at www.natures-express.com.
While our mission for the restaurant is mostly about health, you can be sure we are thrilled to be saving the lives of many animals by serving the Yuma community vegan food in our restaurant :)
--Peace, Jean Myers
We encourage all PT readers in the Yuma area to make a trip to Nature's Express. For a Guest Editorial and Pilgrimage narrative by Jean Myers, see PT 25 and 26.
That pioneer Dick Gregory is awesome--so wonderful when
we have someone, here a Black man, who works for
compassion for both humans and animals. A good example for
those who want to think animal advocates don't care
about humans. . . .
--Fay Elanor Ellwood
For a Guest Editorial by Fay Elanor Ellwood, see PT, Feb., 2005.
My Pilgrimage: Another Kind of Flight
by Jeff Guidry
This column ordinarily tells the story of someone's journey into nonviolent eating. This time, however, we present a narrative of mutual healing by two devoted friends, a wounded raptor and a human being with a life-threatening disease.
Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery; it was broken in four places. She's my baby.
When Freedom came in she could not stand. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vet's office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lie in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.
This went on for four to six weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between rehab and torture, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway. When I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her dowel cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live! I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.
We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses (short leather straps put around a raptor's legs), and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington. We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV. Miracle Pets even did a show about us.
In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing eight months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.
Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after eight rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone. Yahoo!
So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back--I was engulfed in eagle wings--and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in.
On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power course through his body. I have so many stories like that.
I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedom's.
Jeff Guidry and Freedom are at Sarvey Wildlife Center
Used with permission.
--Contributed by Marjorie Emerson and Maria Elena Nava
Proclus (ca. 410-485 CE), the last major philosopher of the ancient world, was one of the two or three most important thinkers in the Neoplatonic tradition after Plotinus, its founder. Born in Constantinople, then the main imperial city, he started life as a privileged young man planning to become a lawyer. But during his studies he underwent a conversion to philosophy, a change of purpose that led to a change of life.
He became a vegetarian and moderate ascetic who never married, dedicating himself to studying, teaching, writing, meditation, and devotion to the Gods. In regard to the last, though he lived a century after the Emperor Constantine and his alignment of the Empire with Christianity, Proclus was a fervent supporter of the old pagan religion (not yet banned), seeing its many deities as powerful manifestations of the One. He was particularly devoted to the God of healing, Asclepius, whom he experienced as appearing to him in dreams.
Although Proclus shines more as systematizer and commentator than original thinker, his prolific works on Plato, Aristotle, Neoplatonism, and Euclidean geometry were essential to the transmission of those important strands of thought to the medieval European and Arabic worlds alike. Like Plotinus, he affirmed the supreme reality of the One, and its emanation in less-real appearances as Mind (nous or logos), and Soul (psyche; the World Soul with its individuation into distinct human souls). At this point the Neoplatonic disciple went beyond Plotinus to describe how Soul mixed with matter to became the human, animal, vegetable, and mineral realms, thus tracing a link between animals and the One.
While biographical references to Proclus consistently refer to his vegetarianism, he apparently does not treat of it in his own surviving works, and his reasons for the practice are not given. It may have been more for ascetic than for compassionate reasons. In reaction against the gross excesses of Rome in its heyday, by the 4th and 5th centuries spiritually serious persons, both Christian and pagan, were increasingly given to austere self-discipline. But this is not to say Proclus was without compassion. His principal biographer, a certain Marinus, describes him as being generous to others. He also tells of an incident in which the philosopher once went to pray at a temple of Asclepius for a sick girl, who was immediately healed. This act suggests a sensitive and compassionate nature, linked to spiritual power.
Marinus generally writes of his subject in adulatory tones, but seems to have had a problem with the vegetarianism, claiming other philosophers exhorted Proclus against abstaining totally from flesh. He also alleges that it was the diet that caused the philosopher's health to decline beginning in his 70th year. (However, Proclus lived to be 75, a good age for the ancient world; Aristotle made it only to 62, Plotinus to 65.)
The only exception to Proclus' vegetarianism, Marinus reports, is that he would taste sacrificial flesh at the worship of the Gods he defended, feeling it would be an offense to those invisible powers to refrain on such a sacred occasion. Whatever one think about this, and indeed about animal sacrifice in general, I think it must be recognized that this act is of quite a different order from eating meat on ordinary occasions. (It seems to me comparable to a a Christian's taking a tiny sip of wine at the altar rail, even if she or he is otherwise a principled teetotaler.)
Though no doubt less than perfect, Proclus seems overall to have been an admirable individual, and a reminder to us that vegetarianism has an ancient and honorable heritage.
Poetry: Walter de la Mare
At secret daybreak they had met--
Chill mist beneath the welling light
Screening the marshes green and wet--
An ardent legion wild for flight.
Each preened and sleeked an arrowlike wing
Then eager throats with lapsing cries
Praising whatever fate might bring--
Cold wave, or Africa's paradise.
Unventured, trackless leagues of air,
England's sweet summer narrowing on
Her lovely pastures: nought they care--
Only this ardour to be gone.
A tiny, elflike, ecstatic host . . .
And I neath them on the highway's crust,
Like some small mute belated ghost,
A sparrow pecking in the dust.
--Walter De La Mare
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 May issue
will be April 27, 2008. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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