Compassion

During the past couple of months I’ve read a few incredible books and they have all related back to many important topics that I think about often and all of the topics were connected.  Everything is connected from what we eat and consume and how we treat others.  We are all guilty of not thinking of this enough.

I really want to dive into these subjects but I think over time my writings will constantly interact with all of these things because they are all a part of my life.  I want to dedicate my life to conservation to include the species that live on this land and all that we and they need. But we all too often take more than we need, leaving little for others.  No land, no food, no clean air and water. We’ve poisoned most of it. Leaving others to choke and smother in what we’ve ruined.

I am guilty of this and everyday I think about what I need to change in my life.

The following books that I have just completed have all been very thought-provoking and inspiring:

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The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter by Marc Bekoff



It’s always refreshing, although all too rare, to find scientists who show deep compassion for animals.  I want to study animal behavior by observing (and only if necessary temporarily interrupting their daily activities to gain greater knowledge to protect them), not by cutting into and torturing animals. Reading Bekoff’s book really opened my eyes to the other people in this world who care for animals and also have degrees in science fields.  I know it’s possible, but I personally only know one other vegan studying in this field.  Not that I’m saying you have to be vegan to care about animals or to protect certain plants and animals, but all too often chickens, pigs and cows are not considered to be in this group.  Bekoff’s book really makes people rethink their practices and shows us that there are other options in the science world that don’t involve torture and enslavement.

I know there are plenty of people out there making a difference, from all different routes.  Very few are vegan and it seems as if even less are in the research field are vegan, but that’s probably due to the overall lack of vegans in this world.

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On the topic of people being vegan, I just finished this book last night:

Sistah Vegan: Black Females Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society edited by A. Breeze Harper

Although I couldn’t get into a large portion of the spiritual aspects of some of the contributors, I loved reading all of the different views and reasons of why people were vegan.  This book compiled essays by Black females that were thought-provoking and can awaken others to realize that veganism isn’t just a “privileged white people thing”.  I loved the links discussed between veganism and social justice issues.  It’s also always very refreshing to read about people have similar feelings and have dealt with similar issues that I have.  The essays also made me realize that lately I’ve been eating too much sugar! Yikes!  I’ve added the Sistah Vegan blog and project link to the collection of links on the right side of my blog. Check them out.

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Science without compassion, science without ethics, has given us the modern war machine, the industrial farm, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the strip mine.

-Erik Reece, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness – Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia

I think I’ve read that line at least 20 times now.  That really just sums up so much.  There is that word again. COMPASSION.  It’s been an overall theme to everything I’ve been reading.  Allowing me to build up these feelings and inspiring me to do more. 

The setting of the book is in Eastern Kentucky, very close to where I’m living now.  His detailed descriptions of his hikes to ridge tops reminded me of my own.  I’ve never been to a ridge top that has been strip mined, but I’ve been to those that have been stripped of their trees and habitat for those living within.  It makes you take a deep breath, and a sigh.

Check out this book, or at least look into mountain top removal.

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The Education of a Black Radical: A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey 1959-1964  by D’Army Baily with Roger Easson

Wow! A much better and true perspective on the Civil Rights Movement that is far more complete and factual than what they taught you in high school Including the March on Washington and how it was “co-opted by the government and taken out of the hands of the radicals and turned into a media propaganda festival”.  Here is someone who risked everything, and was even kicked out of university for standing up for his rights, and the rights of the Black community.  An in depth look into what it means to devote your life to making a difference, fighting for integration and equal rights.

Reading this and then later reading Sistah Vegan and their discussions on human rights and non-human animal rights really brought everything together-  the oppression that those in charge have been using to keep others down and in their control.

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How Shall I Live My Life?: On Liberating the Earth From Civilization. Interviews by Derrick Jensen

Derrick Jensen discusses the destructive dominant culture with ten people who have devoted their lives to undermining it in this collection of interviews.

I’ve read a few Jensen books, all of which I have enjoyed but this one really opened some new doors.  Once again it looped into the previous books I have read.  It was motivating to read more from people who have dedicated their lives to something I also view as crucial and they were using their education as a key tool.

The interview with David Edwards really struck me and related to my life, goals, and the ideas behind the bike adventure that Matthew and I will be going on soon.

Edwards defines compassion as “the desire to remove the suffering of others, and love is the desire to reinforce and preserve their happiness.  So the two are related.”    In continuing on about compassion and what people should do, he mentions “…your compassionate thoughts need to be reflected in what you actually do, how you behave.”

Jensen quotes Edwards, “There is no greater obstacle to freedom than the assumption that it has already been attained.”  Edwards goes on to explain:

What prison could be more secure than that deemed to be “the world,” where the boundaries of action and thought are assumed to be not the limits of the permissible, but rather the limits of the possible?  “Democratic” society is based around sustaining that illusion.  It’s the ultimate prison, because nobody’s going to try to escape from the situation of apparent freedom.  Concomitant to that is that we must be happy , because if we’re free, then we can do whatever makes us happy.

If you start to see through unrestrained hedonism– status, possessions, consumption, luxury– you will find that you begin to have all kinds of freedom and time to work on this stuff:  it’s a kind of deal you can make with the universe:  I’ll give up greed for freedom.  Then you can start putting this time to good use.

 Shortly after reading the Edwards interview, I received a package in the mail from Matthew.  In his letter he wrote, “I really do believe in our trip.  Who knows if we’ll ever get closer to real freedom?  I AM READY FOR IT! I HOPE YOU ARE TOO!”

I am ready. 

  

  

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