Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
Kangaroo and Wombat Friendship
These two orphaned Australian babies–Buggy the kangaroo and Wally the wombat–were put together, and quickly bonded.
Editor’s Corner Essay: The Thing With Feathers
Hope and Purpose
Several times over the years we have quoted the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing With feathers . . . ” to encourage readers to renew their hope that work on behalf of animals is worthwhile and will make a difference. It may be helpful to quote more of the poem:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
That sings the tune–without the words–
And never stops–at all–
But sweetest–in the Gale–is heard
And sore must be the storm–
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm– . . .
Several elements about the poem almost beggar belief, on both the literal and the metaphorical levels. The little bird never stops singing, it says, and hope never gives up. This despite the fact that birds do stop singing to do other things, and many human beings, including activists, do falter at times in their hope that more compassionate days are ahead. Some even burn out.
Perhaps the most startling lines in the poem are “ . . . .the little Bird / That kept so many warm . . . .” It seems almost miraculous to us that the little bird–so tiny, and with such wispy legs–can even keep herself warm in the winter; how can she keep many of us humans warm? The passage is, in fact, fantastic, or rather wholly metaphorical; hope, the bird that sings–and has wings–keeps us warm.
The image is important: living people are warm, dead people are cold. Of course it’s not a straight either/or; we can be chilly, even painfully cold, some of the time and still live; and there are people who can apparently live on without hope. But to lose all hope can kill, as we learned from Viktor Frankl, (pictured), a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust / Shoah. In his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl recorded that one of his fellow prisoners clung to a particular hope: that they would all be released on such-and-such a date. Holding to this hope, he was able to resist the waves of disease that swept through the camp, and survive. But when the date came and went and there was no liberation, he fell into despair–and succumbed to the next disease that came through.
Frankl had already begun to create his Logotherapy school before the Shoah began–his first scientific paper was published when he was all of nineteen–but his three years in the death camps provided more and more powerful experiences out of which he developed it further. He lost his wife Mathilde, “Tilly,” to whom he was newly married; the child she was expecting whom they were forced to abort; and nearly all the members of his family of origin, to murderous Nazi violence, grief upon grief that he had to endure. He came to a firmer and firmer conviction that humans who suffer need meaning, and thus hope, more than anything else in their lives. “Why must I undergo this agony? Does it have any purpose? Can anything good possibly come out of it?” Asking the questions, and beginning to find answers, gave purpose to his sufferings.
There were also many petty sources of pain. For example, one freezing winter day, inadequately clothed, half-starved, with a small crust of bread in his pocket, and forced by the guards to do the meaningless work of breaking large stones into smaller ones, he became disgusted with himself, with the fact that hour after hour, his only preoccupation was with when he was going to eat his crust. Then he summoned another picture into his mind: he imagined himself facing a well-fed, comfortable audience in a warm lecture hall, where he was giving a presentation on the psychology of life in a Nazi prison camp. His miseries shrank, and became materials for imaginary lectures he hoped to give some day after his release.
Religious people may find meaning in the will of a loving God who seeks their spiritual growth and fulfillment, fulfillment which they will some day concretely experience either in this world or the next. But Frankl addressed himself primarily to secular people who had no such resource, who had to find or create their own meaning.
This would not always involve hope for the future. For instance, an elderly man came to Frankl seeking help in dealing with his deep and abiding grief at the loss of his wife, with whom he had had an extraordinary closeness. Frankl contemplated his situation, and then helped him find meaning by asking “What if you had been the one who died first, and left her behind?” “Oh,” he replied, “How she would have suffered! She could not have borne it.” Frankl did not need to say more; the man had found the seed of the meaningfulness he needed to endure his anguish.
I myself found Man’s Search for Meaning a virtual lifesaver during a life that seemed an endless sweep of painful loneliness and low sense of worth, beginning when I was eight years old and the classmates in the small school I attended formed cliques that excluded me. I tried to explain my pain to my mother, who loved me, but she seemed unable to really understand the situation, and what she offered was no help to me. Therapy probably would have helped me, but working-class people like my family of origin do not make use of therapy. Nothing really changed during grade school and high school. My main attitude was “Stop the world–I want to get off.”
After high school, in college and graduate school, being alone at least ceased to feel humiliating, which made a difference. My passion for learning helped, but the pain of loneliness continued. Then I read Man’s Search for Meaning my first year teaching college students. The prospect of finding a reason for what I had been suffering for so long made me willing–and more than willing–to go on. It was as though I were a member of Frankl’s imaginary audience that long-ago icy day in the Nazi prison camp, one person among many who might some day be speaking to still others, encouraging them to find hope and meaningfulness in what they had to endure. They might find that their suffering made them more aware of the suffering of others, and motivate them to take action.
It might even inspire a third party to “go and do likewise.” This happened many years later when my son, not lonely himself but very aware of my story, kept his eye out for loners in the high school where he works as director of technology. He forms temporary “lonely hearts clubs” each year, inviting isolated, unhappy students to his house. First it would be a small group of girls, who would come, make and eat a pizza together, and socialize; invariably, some friendships would form. A week or two later, it would be a group of boys. The “clubs” have been very successful, soon putting themselves out of business. They made for another purpose for what I had suffered, of which of course I had had no inkling at the time.
Hope and Purpose for Animal Pain?
This is one of those issues about the capacities of animals that is difficult for humans to answer, because of our inadequate knowledge of animal consciousness. It would be ideal if we could actually share their consciousness at times. This is not an impossible ideal; I believe the most fruitful approach is to begin inquiring into human-to-animal telepathy. The most conspicuous instance of such telepathy may be the elephant wake for Lawrence Anthony, known as the “Elephant Whisperer.” (See Anthony in PT 91) Anthony died March 2, 2012 of a heart attack. Two days later, an extended family of elephants arrived at his home from where they were staying at the elephant reservation Thula Thula, about a twelve-hour trek away. The following day another elephant family arrived. The two families remained outside the Anthony house for two days before returning to the places where they had been staying.
There is little reason to doubt that they were holding a wake, as is their wont after the death of a cherished member of the extended family; it was almost surely not coincidental, for they had not been at the site for a year and a half, Anthony’s son Dylan relates. How did they learn of his death? Whether they perceived his death as it happened, whether Anthony’s surviving consciousness visited them to say goodbye, whether they perceived the grief of his family or any one member of it, or all three, must be a matter of speculation; the fact is that they knew, and they came to mourn him in the elephant way.
Years earlier, in an event that also probably involved telepathy, Anthony had been able to save them, at the risk of his own life, from being shot as dangerous rogues (which they then certainly were). He told them that they needed to accept Thula Thula as their home, that it was a good place, that they would be safe there, and urgently needed for the present to keep within their smaller temporary enclosure, surrounded by a single electrified wire. After a time and one breakout, they accepted his word. They survived, and accepted Anthony as their devoted friend and counselor.
Neither of these two events is exactly of the kind of hopeful and purposeful decision to endure that Frankl advocated in his logotherapy system. But they do strongly suggest that human minds can sometimes directly impact the minds of animals in lifegiving and love-giving ways. From them I believe we can conclude that our own compassion and hope can sometimes make a direct difference in their lives. And for this reason, I believe, it is important that the motivations of animal activists not be the unprocessed anger that may tend to be a large part of the work of new activists, rage at the system that enslaves so many animals so unjustly. It is only human to feel outrage when one learns of unchecked evil, but we must learn to subject our anger, overwhelmingly, to compassionate love.
We do not want the animals we defend, if they should pick up on our feelings, to be confused by anger they may assume is directed at them. Since we never know when they may telepathically tune in to us, we need to guard our thoughts regarding them, so that we will be life-giving at all times. This, needless to say, is a huge endeavor.
Therapy may be helpful; so may a spiritual discipline such as meditation or contemplative prayer. Looking up to the Source of peace may help us live the peace among all beings that we seek.
Sky Dance of Things With Feathers
Dylan Winter, an English wildlife photographer, has filmed a truly spectacular miracle--a murmuration of starlings. (See Sky Dance ) In the video you will see about 200,000 starlings flying together, braiding in and out of one another in a graceful sky dance so perfect, so synchronized that we can only gaze in wonder, and guess at how they do it. They all seem to be parts of a single mind.
“Until man learns to respect and speak to the animal world, he can never know his true role on Earth."-- Vangelis
Cruelty Case Gets Justice
A Canadian court decreed that cruelty to animals was a violent crime, and should be punished appropriately, including jail time and rehabilitation. See Violent Crime
--Contributed by Marian Hussenbux
Jane Goodall Speaks Up Against Farmed-Animal Gifting
Jane Goodall, together with Marc Bekoff and other animal scientists join religious leaders such as Judy Carman and Jeffrey Spitz Cohen in urging generous people to refrain from supporting groups like Oxfam and Heifer International, who send animals as gifts to impoverished families. They urged the generous to instead support plant-based charities whose projects are sustainable and do not include killing. See Goodall Speaks Up
Pro-Animal Article in New York Times
One of the two most prominent newspapers in the US, the New York Times, recently published an article entitled “We Will Look Back on This Age of Cruelty to Animals in Horror.” See Horror .
Italian diver Enzo Maiorca (or Mallorca), in the Sea of Syracuse, felt someone touch his back. It was a dolphin, who was signaling him to help. Following the dolphin downward, Maiorca discovered another dolphin trapped in an abandoned net. Maiorca asked his daughter, in the boat, to bring the diving knives; between them, they rescued the prisoner, who turned out to be pregnant. See Rescue
–Contributed by Karen Borch
Pioneer: Peace Pilgrim
(Mildred Lisette Norman, 1908 - 1981)
The 1950s were the golden age of American car culture, the love affair with buying cars and enjoying the freedom to travel over this vast land they offered. As the vehicular stony ground of the Great Depression and World War II became history, the automobile proliferated. Nearly 58 million were produced during this decade, including the virtually yacht-sized low-slung gas guzzlers for which those times are infamous. On top of that, the car-craze was enhanced by the revolutionary interstate freeway system and countless new gas stations and motels.
But one traveler on the proliferating and lengthening roads of the fifties and after was not caught up in the craze, except when being driven by friends to a special event. This was the woman called Peace Pilgrim. “Peace” started her pilgrimage on January 1, 1953, in Pasadena, California, where she walked along with the famous Rose Parade handing out tracts. She didn’t stop when the parade ended, but continued walking the roadways of America from one side of the country to another, visiting all fifty states plus the ten Canadian provinces over nearly thirty years.
The wayfarer dressed simply in navy blue slacks and sweatshirt, bearing the words Peace Pilgrim. She owned nothing but the clothes on her back (she would wash them in public rest roooms and put them back on to dry), plus a few items she could carry in her pockets—e.g., toothbrush, ball-point pen, notepad, pamphlets to hand out—possessing not a penny in money of her own. She had journeyed more than 25,000 miles in this way by 1964, when she stopped counting. Peace refused to ask for food or shelter, though accepting it if offered. The righteous rambler, or nun-errant, who spoke of her walking “as a prayer,” might have been exemplifying J. R. R. Tolkien’s oft-quoted line “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Moreover, this present-day pilgrim pledged herself to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.” She did find friends and supporters, and would speak in schools, churches or other congenial venues if asked, though she belonged to no religious or other organization herself. As she became well-known she found herself often interviewed on radio and television in those years of the Cold War, Vietnam, and epochal cultural conflict. Needless to say, her words were often at odds with the conventional wisdom of the times, but her joyous enthusiasm and ready wit disarmed many critics and assured that she was heard.
Peace Pilgrim was born Mildred Lisette Norman in 1908 on a poultry farm in Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Her early years were happy, she reports, with woods and a stream to play in, though she had no formal religious training. (She said that meant there was “less I would have to undo from my mind later on!”) In those youthful years the future pilgrim lived a relatively indulgent life as a popular young woman and high school valedictorian, enjoying meat, ice-cream sundaes, and dancing. However Mildred might have displayed another side of her potential for unconventionality in 1933 when she eloped with a Stanley Ryder and, in 1939, moved to Philadelphia. That marriage ended in 1946.
She worked at conventional jobs like sales clerking, which she enjoyed, and, indeed, she said she “discovered that making money was easy.” But she also somehow realized that “making money and spending it foolishly was completely meaningless.” “I knew that was not what I was here for, but at the time I didn’t know exactly what I was here for.” This led to another kind of quest. Eventually, “in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life,” she wandered all one night through the woods, finally coming to a moonlit glade where she prayed. There she offered herself to God through service. “Please use me,” she cried to God. And a great peace came over her. She still had to go through several stages of self-purification before setting out on that Tournament of Roses day, but the corner had been turned and her way of life set.
Shortly before setting out, she realized, as she expressed it in one of her pamphlets: All of a sudden I felt very uplifted, more uplifted than I had ever been. I remember I knew timelessness and spacelessness and lightness . . . every flower, every bush, every tree, seemed to wear a halo. There was a light emanation around everything and flecks of gold fell like slanted rain through the air . . . .I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation . . . And most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God . . . I have never really felt separate since.
She had more than one adventure that involved a close brush with death, but survived, thanks to intuition and fearless, loving action.
This pilgrim’s pilgrimage lasted nearly three decades. It ended on July 7, 1981, while she was crossing the United States for the seventh time, but not while she was walking the highways. As she was being driven to a speaking engagement in Indiana her vehicle was struck head-on by another, soon killing her.
Among the disciplines Peace adapted during the self-purification before setting forth on the great pilgrimage was vegetarianism, along with fasting. She said, “I began to realize I was disobeying my rule of life, which says, I will not ask anyone to do for me things I would refuse to do for myself. Now, I wouldn’t kill any creature—I wouldn’t even kill a chicken or a fish—and therefore I stopped immediately eating all flesh.” This was also, like the peace activity, for the sake of the hungry people of the world, for far more of them would have enough to eat without meat at the center of the menu of Westerners..
She came to believe that maintaining the body as the “temple of the holy spirit” is crucial, and went on to eat only healthy foods of all sorts. She said further, “Now I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains (preferably organically grown) and perhaps a bit of milk and cheese. This is what I live and walk on . . . As to my vegetarianism, I do the best I can. I have never refrained from doing something I believed was right because I could not do it perfectly.”
This diet must have been effective, since despite her highly demanding way of life Peace Pilgrim was never sick, not even a cold or headache, and just kept on walking every day until that final day. She was as near as anyone in modern times to the great saints of old.
For more information, see Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. Compiled by some of her friends. Santa Fe, NM: Ocean Tree Books, 1982.
Did You Miss This One? Proteinaholic
Garth Davis, M.D., Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. New York: HarperOne, 2015. 393 pp. $27.99 hardcover.
Here is the author’s own introduction to this impressive book:
My name is Garth Davis, and I was a proteinaholic.
For many years, I obeyed what I’d been taught by the medical establishment, by my colleagues, and by the media, and each and every meal and snack had to contain a huge serving of my beloved protein. I would gulp down protein drinks whenever possible, and dive into big, thick steaks practically daily. Protein was my drug and worse, it was my prescription. I actually pushed protein on my patients, encouraging them to do as I did.
I am happy to say that I have overcome this obsession with protein. This book is a detailed guide to my recovery.
Proteinaholic delivers on that premise. In a readable style, replete with enough scientific evidence to be credible but not too technical for the average reader, it validates the once-radical but now widely accepted concepts that, while humans need some protein, traditional diets such as Davis’ onetime fare included way too much, that plant protein is adequate and indeed better for us than animal protein, and that while admittedly it is not always easy to change long-time habits, a change to plant protein is possible. Davis shows us how. While he became a vegan himself, he does not insist on that label so much as that people become pro-soy, pro-vegetable and pro-fruit and take little if any of the other protein. He gives minor mention to the environmental benefits of veganism, and the suffering of animals in the factory-farms and slaughterhells.
The stakes are high. Himself a bariatric (weight-loss) surgeon, his medical specialty, Davis is well aware that much overweight is due to excessive protein consumption. Indeed, he goes on to say, “far more people will suffer and perish from bad food than ever did from cigarettes.” (p. 119) In talking about diet, then, we are not talking about fads or even taste, but life itself.
This fascinating book contains much curious and in the end important information about how we got to where we are now regarding protein. For example, Davis mentions Frances Moore Lappé’s 1971 Diet for a Small Planet, which convinced many readers to become vegetarian, but which also promoted a mistaken idea of protein complementarity. This notion claimed that, unlike animal proteins, plant proteins are each incomplete and so needed to be combined carefully at each meal. This false concept of complementarity led to a lot of unnecessary fuss and worry, and perhaps doubts about veganism. In later editions, Lappé retracted this statement and regretted she had advanced it, but unfortunately the idea of needful plant-protein complementarity had become widespread. Vegetarians felt that they had to “jump through nutritional hoops to equal the ‘perfect’ protein found in beef and eggs,” a sorry and discouraging idea. (pp. 242-43)
On a happier note, Davis demolishes the still-current “myth” that vegans are weak by telling of outstanding athletes, including boxers, sprinters, and triathletes, who became vegan to improve their performances. Plants give them what they need, no more no less. They all relate how “a plant-based diet actually helped them train more intensely than their rivals.” (p. 270) Davis ends this section with a line from Pino Caruso, “People eat meat thinking they will become strong as an ox, forgetting that the ox eats grass.”
Proteinaholic is highly recommended, particularly to readers who are at a stage in their nutritional/spiritual growth where knowing where and how to make the big transition is important. It should also be in all libraries, including those in churches and Meeting Houses.
Recipe: Vegetarian Chili
1 garlic clove
1 green pepper
Small amount of oil for sautéing
½ tsp. chili powder (or more as desired)
¼ tsp. cumin
Parsley, salt, & pepper to taste
2 c. bean broth
1 c. tomato sauce
1 c. fresh (or frozen) corn
4 c. cooked beans, pinto or kidney
Saute the onion, garlic and green pepper in oil. Add all other ingredients and simmer; time may vary from ½ hour to two hours. May be served topped with shredded vegan cheeeze, and/or garnished with parsley.
–Susan Nelson, slightly altered
From the Sandpoint, Idaho Friends 1994 cookbook, The Peaceable Kitchen
Poetry: Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
That sings the tune–without the words–
And never stops–at all–
But sweetest in the Gale is heard–
And sore must be the Storm–
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm–
I’ve heard it in the chillest land–
And on the strangest sea–
It asked a crumb–of me.