Friday, January 8, 2010

Life Eats Life

I have a complaint about predator/prey relationships because I too easily can identify with the prey. I suspect there is not wholehearted agreement among the prey as to the manner and timing of turning from a living being into a food source. I suspect they might feel interrupted and preempted. I cannot imagine feeling less free, less in charge of my own life. I just can’t help taking this a little personally.

As a child I hunted as little boys do. I have watched creatures die at my hand. Even darker, I have toyed with them, as cats will. There is more; so many of us have these experiences with killing and more. I have not been to war myself, only through the experiences of my close friends. Killing and eating are very close together. Farming is the harvesting of life. It is so completely necessary. At the heart of so many kinds of farming is a death moment imposed on another life form, a living being is turned in that moment into a food source. Those that have the power kill, those that don’t are killed.

I have no solution. When I enjoy a steak (and I really like a good steak) I try not to think in this way. I appreciate that I don’t have to butcher my own meat. But I have been here in this mood eating most things, and it troubles me that I have no solution. I believe it puts me at a disadvantage spiritually when I want to think of myself as all pure and ascended that I participate in killing many creatures so regularly and so often, creatures who would surely refuse me if they could. I don’t think there is a way to live as a human without this loose end.

It is one facet of humility to know that I live at the price of other life. Others have to die so that I can live.

Life Eats Life

I know it is hard,
that life does eat life.
It is expected of us.
All we get is choice,
what life shall we eat today?

Why should my orange
be okay with my
hands stripping its skin, pulling
wedges, little squirts
of juice, cast away
seeds that were meant for planting.
Why not grieve that?

March 16, 2009 12:52 PM


  1. I never think this way of the vegetables and fruits I consume, but often I do think this of the things that once had faces. When I think of that, I can hardly bear it.

  2. Christopher, i do feel found out by your words today. Timely timely thing, these words. Even the orange.

    Of course, I was startled to see the predator/prey inference and was thinking something else entirely. And so it could still be.


  3. Karen, I know. To think that way about an onion is odd. Yet it once was a whole plant and that plant is no longer. It is easily replaced and one could say that the individual plant is not the unit of plant the same way the individual animal is the unit of animal. And yet I feel like I am quibbling.

    Orange comes off a tree and the tree lives, so you might think of an orange as a shed thing. If I eat the whole orange, I might not digest the seed and it might pass through me, planted in my dung to become a tree. This might turn me into a strategy of the orange tree.

    That is certainly how birds are used.

    What is interesting however, we can personify anything and do in stories. An orange can have a face in a cartoon, and arms and legs and objections to being eaten. So in the stories I tell myself, even oranges can "hate" me.

    Erin, here is the problem for us, for those of us who enter story. There are some writers who may live apart from their stories. I wonder about this. I know I don't live apart though I don't live the same way in stories as I do out of them, nor in dreams the same way as I do in my waking life. But I live enough in all these places that my moral sense is involved. It matters to me how I behave in all these realms. To think that those I eat don't like me for it may come only in stories, like an orange with a face and little legs, but it still comes and I am still moved a little by that judgment.

  4. All I do is keep it simple, we are obviously supposed to eat. So I do. I have enough stuff to feel guilty about with out bringing food into it. Having said that, there are some products I refuse to endorse, like cage laid eggs.....ahhh, perhaps I am a hypocrite?


  5. Michelle, it is sort of like might even be right that another tells you that you are one. They might see utterly correctly into your own heart and know it about you. It still does no good. In this matter too. You might be a hypocrite in your eating. I certainly am. I diagnose myself and then live with it. What next? I too tend to keep it simple but I am not so successful. I am far too fat.

    You are right. We obviously are supposed to eat. At the beginning of my post I said there is no solution to this quandary. If we do what we are supposed to, then what is wrong? Then why can it trouble some of us, and it does? There is something out of joint with the whole thing. That is called a condition. Why then would not it be a correct thing for those of us who can to "wake up"? When the Buddhists put eating restrictions in place, when anyone does, would this not be an attempt to rectify an imbalance? Gluttony is one of the sins in the Christian tradition.

    Gluttony is not just about getting fat, and may not lead to being fat at all. Gluttony is an attitude about the world and one's place in it. There are the rules about eating that you grow up with too. All of these things are signals that there is something amiss, something that at least needs civilizing if not spiritualizing.

    And as you say, the press of our numbers has led to practices that are "fates worse than death" to our companion creatures. You can say the same for hogs and turkeys and cows. To refuse to endorse those practices is a luxury. If those eggs became close to the only source of your protein it would be more difficult to avoid cage laid eggs. If you are really poor, then eggs are cheap protein.

    This is a whole thorny issue. Waking up to the issues around eating creatures as Karen said with faces is probably required in bonehead spirituality courses. I just think it is right to add any item I can put a face on in my imagination works the same as creatures with faces.

    International reader's take note:
    "Bonehead" English is what remedial English courses at the college level are called when you fail the tests and are required make up your deficiencies. Bonehead English is the allusion I used to write "bonehead spirituality".

  6. Hmmm...this whole discussion could result in a whole lotta weight loss. Now that might not be so bad. Maybe I'll go paint faces on all my food. ;-)

  7. Oh don't worry Karen, this whole thing will suffer the fates of other shiny things and if you just wait three days, it will all be over and you can go back to business as usual.


    I depend on it.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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