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Loving Beyond Humans to All Living Creatures

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As I mentioned in my last post, I have joined the We Stand With Love campaign to try to counteract the hatred and bigotry running rampant in our country lately. Below is my contribution to the campaign, entitled Loving Beyond Humanity to All Living Creatures. Here, too, is the link if you want to see a cute doggie picture and read other essays on going “Beyond Love.”

by Melanie Lynn Griffin

The more we practice “loving beyond ourselves,” the more we are challenged.

Heart-stretching can be a painful exercise as we confront our self-centeredness and prayerfully question the ways our societies, religious communities, and families make us insensitive to “the other.”

The reward is a gradual awakening to our true selves, and the discovery that our capacity for love and compassion is boundless: Joy! Connection! Belonging!

But wait — how far might this go? Might we move beyond ourselves to our families, and beyond our families to our neighbors, and beyond our neighbors to “the other,” and beyond “the other” to the enemy, so we include all human beings in our circle of love?

But then, might it go farther still – to include our fellow creatures?

To get there, we will have to have the courage to face some inconvenience.

How inconvenient to feel compassion for the cow that died for your steak dinner, or to learn that the pig that became your bacon was smarter than your golden retriever, or that contrary to what your father told you, the trout flapping on the end of your line most likely does feel pain.

How inconvenient that ExxonMobil’s potential Arctic oil field (which will power your SUV) also happens to be a nursery for polar bears and caribou, or that the site of the proposed Walmart (where you will buy your cow-skin shoes) is also home to an endangered gopher tortoise.

Your compassion practice may lead you to change some of your daily habits.

At the very least it will raise some tough questions: What is the cost of your lifestyle to the nonhuman creatures who share our planet?

Does a nonhuman creature have intrinsic value as God’s handiwork, or is it only valuable in service to humans? Today, practice stretching your circle of concern to include our fellow creatures on this beautiful planet that teems with precious life.

Questions for Today:

When have you witnessed obvious cruelty to an animal? How did you respond?

What would our society look like if we became more sensitive to the suffering of animals?

What happens to us if we become less sensitive to the suffering of our fellow creatures?

 

Melanie Lynn Griffin was an environmental lobbyist for many years. Now she is a freelance writer and pastor.

Shifting Reality – A Poem

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SHIFTING REALITY

They collide, a bear and a dogbone,

To become a giant mouse head.

I surrender to shifting reality.

◊  ◊  ◊

An angel’s cowlick elongates, circles to her chin

And forms an elephant’s trunk,

Lifting water to mouth.

◊  ◊  ◊

Continents morph as maps float by,

Mountains to peninsulas to islands;

Plate tectonics on amphetamines.

◊  ◊  ◊

A laughing alligator with a camel’s hump

Gallops towards the horizon, and . . .

Blue! All is blue!

◊  ◊  ◊

Airy wisps of white cotton candy coalesce

Shaping a tropical storm swirl,

And the shifting begins again.

◊  ◊  ◊

Shifting Reality

Shifting Reality

How the Zebra Got its Stripes

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Woman:

“So what do you think — is the zebra white with black stripes, or black with white stripes?”

Child, after a thoughtful pause:

“The zebra used to be white, but it got swallowed by the darkness.”

Woman:

“Why isn’t it all black, then?”

Child:

“Well, after a while the zebra realized that the dark and light live together, so it decided to be both at once.”

Woman:

“How do you know that?”

Child:

“God told me, and I thought it sounded right.”

even the darkness is not dark to you;     the night is as bright as the day,     for darkness is as light to you.

 

“. . . even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”

Psalm 139:12

An antidote for my previous post, A Rant at God

Want to Know My Dream?

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The question makes me laugh: “You just inherited a dilapidated, crumbling-down grand mansion in the countryside — what do you do with it?” As it turns out, this is not a theoretical question for me. Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is, in fact, a reality in my life.

All except the second part of the prompt, “Assuming money is no issue…” That part is definitely theoretical. Oh, and the part about it being a grand mansion. That’s not exactly true either.

What is true is that I have inherited the loveliest piece of real estate on the planet, named Quiet Hills by my grandmother Beedie who purchased the place in 1940. The old (1782) Cape Cod in the countryside of New Hampshire could probably be described as somewhat dilapidated, but I don’t see it that way. 

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

Because of the money issue, I don’t spend time dreaming of what it might become, I just enjoy it for what it is: a wildlife sanctuary of woods and meadows and a quaint house full of ghosts and massive old furniture, which I imagine house servants slathering with beeswax back in the day. It smells of lavender and witch hazel and my grandmother’s face powder. 

On still nights, I can hear the Ashuelot River rushing over boulders at the foot of the hill. The Hermit Thrush announces the setting of the sun, and the Great Horned Owl welcomes the falling of darkness. I can’t say what happens at dawn because that’s not my thing. I always stay up too late reading Beedie’s musty old novels to see the dawn.

But . . . but — what if I had money?

A Writer’s Haven

No question. Quiet Hills would be a retreat house for writers and nature lovers and spiritual seekers. I’d give classes in writing techniques and in contemplative spiritual practices like Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina (sacred reading). 

We would have silent retreats, too, and I’d have someone teach yoga  and tai chi. I’d set up nature trails on the property with prayer prompts along the way, and build a prayer labyrinth with benches and weeping birch trees around the edges. People would frequently have life-changing spiritual epiphanies there.

Prayer labyrinth

Prayer labyrinth

I’d run a bed & breakfast for my retreatants, and every morning my helper would get up early and make a humongous country breakfast. Our speciality would be blueberry muffins with berries from our fields and fresh butter from two dairy cows who roam the meadows and come into the old coach house for milking. And eggs, too, from my chickens who eat the pests in the vegetable garden where lush tomato vines are heavy with warm fruit and the aroma of sweet basil is overpowering. There would be no meat in our meals, and no one would miss it.

Eggs, not meat

Eggs, not meat

I’d fix up the massive barn; one end would be a huge picture window overlooking the woods — that’s where we would hold workshops, and there would be sleeping quarters in the lofts above. In the corners of the barn I’d have mounds of brightly colored handmade quilts for people to snuggle into each autumn and to spread out in the meadows for writing and naps in the summer. 

I’d get custom-made windows for the main house, and insulation, so I could be there in the winters, too. I’d build a big stone hearth and fireplace in the living room where the small wood-burning stove is now, and expand the kitchen to fit several long tables where people could eat together. Why not put a fireplace in the kitchen, too? And a big bay window with lots of hummingbird feeders just outside. Everyone would marvel at the constant comings and goings of the hovering jewels.

I’d have all new (but vintage) wallpaper and curtains and oriental rugs, and wall-to-ceiling bookcases in every room, because after all, this is a writer’s retreat. I’d have lots of bathrooms, and instead of the dug wells that run dry in August, there would be an artesian well sunk deep into cold, underground springs. There would be a jacuzzi. 

Best of all, Quiet Hills B&B retreat house would be free for those who couldn’t afford my already reasonable rates. Money should be no hindrance to dreams.

And that, WordPress Daily Prompt, is what I would do with my dilapidated inheritance if I had money. Now – please tell me that this is actually a contest, and I win, and the prize is that you’re going to fund my dream. 

Fall2013.drive1 001

Can We Please Just Talk about Cute Animals??

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Guess what the most popular topic on my blog is this quarter? Death.

Yup, death. That’s fun, isn’t it?

In an effort to figure out why you readers are so morbid, I reviewed the quarter and found that it all comes down to a matter of simple math. Not that I can actually *do* simple math, mind you, but I’m sure that math is to blame for your recent fixation on death.

You see, the great majority of my posts lately have been related to the D word, so every time you click, you are registering your fascination with death. I’m not giving you much choice. Some of the posts are kinda funny, IMHO, but they’re still deadly.

I’ve done everything from an educational piece on Suicide Prevention Day (not funny) to a story about a traumatic moment with my chronically ill brother to a poem about music and my dear — yes, departed — mother.

I wrote a piece about my cousin, who’s buried in our garden under the apple tree, and one about Trayvon Martin, and two poems about the recent death of a friend with Lou Gehrig’s disease. All in the past few months.

I’m a Blogger for Peace, so I write about war once a month — which entails the D word every time, no matter how clean we pretend our distant, drone-directing American hands are. We’re causing death and plenty of it.

So I’m thinking it’s time for me to write something hysterically funny. Something light-hearted and frivolous; something you will laugh out loud at and then immediately forget.

What we need is a good belly laugh!

What we need is a good belly laugh!

I know! I could tell about frolicking squirrels!

This might not work though, because I was reading a blog last night about squirrels running up and down a tree, and my expectation was that they were about to run into the street and get flattened. Seriously. That just seems to be where my head goes right now. (The squirrels did not get killed, didn’t even get frightened. Just ran up and down a tree. Period.)

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Always good for a laugh, unless they get run over

Wait! How about I write about the cute deer eating apples out back and drinking from the bird bath?

These green apples are a tad tart -- have you got any red?

These green apples are a tad tart — have you got any red?

But then I would have to tell you about how I very nearly accosted a man in a red pick-up today because he drove past my house a couple of times. I was certain that he was armed to the teeth and scoping out his fall hunting grounds. No doubt he had seen my resident deer and was out to shed blood. I almost flew out of the house like a maniac, intent on gesturing aggressively at the bright orange No Hunting signs that dot my property.

Then I remembered that he was merely driving by on a public lane.

I guess sometimes you just are where you are . . . Oh God – my cat has chased a little mouse up the curtain. No death, please!

I gotta run.

Nobody up here, honest!

Nobody up here, honest!

Connecting to “The Other” — A Daily Prompt

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“The happiest life has the greatest number of points of contact with the world, and it has the deepest feeling and sympathy with everything that is,” according to the father of modern horticulture. I have to share that with you, because I was told to do so.

The WordPress Daily Prompt asks:  “Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?”

Daily Prompt: Quote Me | The Daily Post.

DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO

I have mixed feelings about the WordPress Daily Prompts:

  • I don’t need new ideas to write about — my problem is that everything in the universe prompts me to write, and I have to pull myself away from the computer. I have enough I’d like to share without some amorphous power in the cloud-sky giving me suggestions.
  • This makes clear another issue I have with the Daily Prompts : I am not a fan of authority figures, and YOU CAN”T TELL ME WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT! I know this is my baggage, but there you have it.
  • I also don’t like following a crowd; I fancy myself a one-of-a-kind blogger, which is, of course, ridiculous. Not only that, but I also have a great need to belong that is diametrically opposed to what I just said about not being part of a crowd of Daily Prompt writers.

Anyway, enough of my stuff spilling out onto the page. I do love that quote from Liberty Hyde Bailey, so I thought I’d share.

Liberty Hyde Bailey
Photo: Wikipedia

PLANTS, HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS

“The happiest life has the greatest number of points of contact with the world, and it has the deepest feeling and sympathy with everything that is.”

I believe this to be absolutely true. Although the deep feeling and sympathy can sometimes lead to grief, I do not believe that this conflicts with happiness. Because grief and compassion make us more fully human, I think that it ultimately results in a deeper, more genuine happiness — joy.

It’s fabulous that a horticulturalist said this. I imagine he was talking, at least in part, about plants. Still, his sentiments have caused me to murder more plants because they drove my decision to become a vegetarian. I want to walk gently on the earth, and cause as little pain and suffering as I possibly can, beginning with sentient beings. (Sorry, zucchini.)

I once believed that I had “too many” friends because I was too busy. But God kept putting new people in my life that I found fascinating, beautiful, comforting, or fun. I once went on a retreat with a bunch of other people in their 30s and 40s, and one woman said to me, “Let’s pretend we’re Buddhist nuns, OK?” I mean, how could you NOT want to be friends with that person?

File:Taiwanese Buddhist Nun Black Robes.jpeg

Buddhist Nun
Photo: Creative Commons

I now realize that my particular personality is created to have a great number of points of contact. It is how I connect with the many aspects of the Divine. What a wonderful, diverse world we live in! I have had the incredible joy of swimming with dolphins and sea turtles, harvesting spring asparagus and peas, debating spiritual truths in my book group, and being deeply in love with a musician, a historian, and a woodworker. Seriously – I am uber-blessed and intend to keep experiencing as much of life as God cares to show me. I just pray that my eyes and my heart will remain open.

MAKING PEACE

Because I have signed on to be a Blogger for Peace, I will warn you that these points of contact complicate life immensely. Not only could you find yourself eschewing veal or factory-bred chicken, you might have to start paying attention to what your government is doing. For instance:

  • How do we choose between killing Palestinian children and Israeli children? Do we just adopt policies and produce weapons that will kill both, to even things out?
  • U.S. drones are murdering countless innocent children without Americans risking as much as the finger that pressed the launch button. How un-connected can one be? What percentage of your tax money goes towards building drones?
  • Abortion: wherever you are, has it occurred to you that the people on “the other side” care deeply about the life and well-being of others? Could you imagine really listening to them, instead of judging and condemning them?

~I wish you joy, peace, and connection in 2013~

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