I posted a rather icky picture on Facebook last night. My bicycle ride earlier took me to a cornfield next to the eagle tree (see my earlier posts about bald eagles) where I happened to find a little, dead mouse, not so much decomposed as half-missing by being eaten. By wasps. I'm sure other creatures have had their feast, as well. I was first taken aback by the rather horrid image of it all, especially because I am very drawn to rodents and have had many as pets. Unfortunately, my allergies to them over the years have grown to the point where keeping them is impossible. In any case, I saw a photo opportunity that young boys will find "Coooool!", curmudgeons will think, "Good riddance!" and the squeamish won't even look at a second time after glancing and squealing, "Ewwwwww!"
My sadness for this wee thing very quickly turned to blessings for its little life, sending it whatever energy its consciousness needed in case it was hanging around, confused. You know, his soul, his energy. Not his wasp-ravaged body. And I took pictures, because I saw the beauty in this mouse's body offering sustenance to who-knows how many other creatures. I saw it as a very compassionate, Buddhist thing to do, whatever that means. I'm not a Buddhist, but I dig the philosophy on a subatomic level. Seriously. It's all quantum, but that's another blog for another time. And one of these days, I'm going to owe my humble group of readers an an awful lot of posts; I keep mentioning that there are important tangents to my stories.
After posting the image, I received a private message from one of my friends. I've decided to post it here to explain why I'm a vegetarian.
Good day to you! I want to ask you a question about vegetarianism, in relation to your picture of the wasps feeding on the dead mouse. I don't criticize your choice not to eat meat. But how do you reconcile your view of the mouse as 'serving' while the wasps feed on its flesh? Is it the fact that the mouse was not raised expressly for slaughter, but instead ended up where it did through a natural chain of events? I'm curious.
I think it is a powerful picture, in that it shows a side of nature that more squeamish folks would like to pretend don't exist. It's not beautiful as in "oh what a pretty sunset", but it shows the essence of one of life's many cycles, and how life feeds on life. There's lots of people who don't get that aspect.
What's funny is that those squeamish folks hold what I call the "Disney" view of nature: All the animals live in harmony, talking squirrels, cuddly runnybabbits, etc. But then Disney goes and makes "The Lion King" in which Mufasa explains to Simba that the gazelles eat the grass, the lions eat the gazelles, and when they die, they eventually come back as grass and feed the gazelles. Kind of simplified, but there it is in a nutshell.
Like I said, I'm just curious what your take on it was. Thanks for getting my brain stimulated first thing in the morning. Well, that and the coffee I just poured down my throat. That, too.
This was my reply.
I have choices; I can sprout my beans and eat them. I can grow my own food. I can take my money and go to the store and buy food. If I really *had* to, I could beg for food (or the money to buy it) on the streets. Or, I could buy a hamburger, but because there are so many other foods that don't involve the cessation of life before its natural course played out, I choose not to eat meat. I don't believe that raising meat on a factory farm is a natural course, and even the act of raising the animals can cause more harm than good to the entire planet.
My ways of acquiring sustenance are numerous and diverse because my intellect is more evolved than that of the wasps or the mouse or Mufasa. I choose not to be a part of that particular circle of life, although I do hope that, if there's anything left of me to feed on after I'm cremated and scattered, that I can serve that purpose.
And yes, the mouse was not raised expressly as food...to be mistreated (or even treated well) and led blindly through a life that will end at the hands of someone who isn't even thinking about what its life may have meant or could have been. The animal that killed the mouse probably wasn't able to make that choice. I say probably because, if the mouse was killed as sport alone, there will be a different karma for the one doing the slaying than if the mouse had been killed because the predator was hungry...and/or had hungry baby mouths to fill at home. I can think above that and find ways to feed my body without harming a life, something my truth tells me is not right for me.
This does not mean I condemn those who choose to eat meat. It's not my place to do so, so if you want some of the smoked Boston Butt [the estranger] is serving today after smoking it all day yesterday at his place, be there for dinner. He eats late. Very late. You might actually have time to get there while there's some left. As with everything else, our current choices are very, very different. His don't fit me, but they're right for him. I can only be responsible for what I do, and that includes being sure I don't make the rules and laws regarding what is and isn't right for anyone else. You can visit my place for dessert or a proper cuppa afterward. ;)
Only a small percentage of my Facebook friends know how attached I am to meeses, so I'm sure you can probably imagine how difficult it was for me to take those pics. I can see exactly in them what I described in the caption, but what I didn't say is that I still feel sadness for the fear, panic, and pain the mouse may have experienced before it died, no matter whether it died by teeth or disease or being stomped on by something much bigger. But, I know that this is the way things go; to find beauty in such a scene yesterday *was* a powerfully moving experience. There is a Buddhist teaching that has students dwell on real human corpses in various degrees of decomposition. I really never "got" that until yesterday. I don't wholly understand it, but I got a glimpse into how valuable it is to see both sides of the coin, the dark and the light, what happens right after our bodies stop being a living thing. Being sad for the body is a human trait, though I also believe it also belongs to some animals who authentically mourn the death or absence of a loved one. I certainly don't want to be responsible for the death of a creature with such sentience, and I don't believe any of us can make the call as to which animals or even which species have that "knowing".
I hope this helps. It's refreshing when people will ask me these questions rather than tell me that there is absolutely NO freakin' way that there's any difference between the wasps eating that mouse and having Boston Butt for dinner. I feel the difference, and that is enough. Thank you for taking the time to ask, Jason. Namaste'.