Sunday, February 24, 2013

How To Save a Life

One never knows what the dawn will bring. A chance to start anew, a moment of clarity, a rock-bottom experience, a repeat of yesterday... A tragedy. Today, I found myself in a position I never thought I would be in. I fired a gun in defense of a defenseless mother of two unborn fetuses. It is something I will never forget, and it has given me a renewed perspective on the importance of gun rights. I shot at two dogs attacking my favorite pygmy 'nanny' goat, pregnant with two kids.

I was alerted by dogs barking outside the barn. Occasionally joggers have their dogs with them, and sometimes they bark, but this was clearly on the property. At first, I thought I must have a visitor, but then, another dog began barking and together, their barks grew more and more frenzied. I was searching for my gun. I grabbed it and headed for the door. then, realizing that this gun was not loaded, I dashed back inside for my loaded pistol. I ran outside, to find two dogs. A long-haired black dog, 'egging' on the other with loud barks, the other--a pit bull-looking dog-- on top of the pregnant black pygmy goat 'Black Mama'. I cocked my pistol, the black dog began running, and i fired at its heels, in the direction of the attacking dog. The dogs immediately turned tail, and began running. I fired after them, but with no intent to shoot them. Crisis averted... Or so I thought.

It had taken me less than two minutes to respond to the barks, and every instant I was kicking myself in the pants for not having my gun more ready. Precious time spent retrieving a loaded gun to ward off snarling canines is nothing to what I imagine are those eternal moments of anticipation and terror involved in a public shooting/mass murder situation. I cannot imagine if I had been saving a human being, I would never forgive myself. But this is a little different. This is "property", in the form of living animals, and I am not defending against humans, I'm defending against pets. The stakes are considerably lower. I felt that the situation had been resolved, because as I lowered my weapon, the thought occurred to me that I had actually made a pretty quick response time: I would say about 1 minute and 20 seconds, at the most. 'Imagine if I had not been a gun-owner...'

As I turned to the barn, I saw the black goat get up from the ground, stumble into the side of the barn, smearing blood on the door. I grabbed my phone and called a local yokel, and good friend, who has farmed all his life 'is there a veterinarian in the area?' 'not today...' I looked over to where the goat had been, she was gone. I ran around the side of the barn, and found her bleeding profusely from her throat. I grabbed a paper towel off the ground and held it against her throat. her breathing was labored, and the blood was bright red. If I had been a little more present, I would have made a much more judicious decision at that point, realizing that it was arterial blood. But, as I was somewhat panicked, I instead got her to lay down, I grabbed a shirt from a box of storage, and ripped a bandage for her. I tied it around her jaw, and ran to my vehicle for a blanket. I dialed my friend, the owner of these goats and left him a message. I looked over at the goat pen... The Billy goat, 'Otis', was dead outside the goat shelter. I feared the worst, and the worst was confirmed: all three (plus two unborn) goats were dead.

Less than two minutes, and two dogs had taken lives, and mortally wounded my little livestock brood. Imagine the devastation of a crazed shooter in a packed city mall, or public school... two minutes is a long, loooong time.

'What if I hadn't been a gun owner'? I will tell you what.

I retrieved the blanket and upon reentering the barn, found the goat had gotten up and was wandering around completely aimlessly in the barn. she was bleeding everywhere. there was no saving her.

I knew what I had to do. I laid her down on the blanket, scooped her up and took her outside. I laid her down and pulled the blanket over her head. I felt around her skull and peeked in once more to make sure of my aim. I covered her again. Her breathing was labored and gurgled with blood. I synced my breathing with hers, and closed my eyes. I pulled the trigger. It misfired. I invoked the universe and reached for some courage and some peace, and pulled the trigger again.

She slowly collapsed in total silence. she never took another breath.

What if I had run out immediately, and chased off the dogs without a gun? Perhaps this would have been effective. But, as they so amply demonstrated, dogs are dangerous animals when excited by the taste of blood. I could have found myself in the same fate of the goats, had there been even one more dog, perhaps if these two dogs had had less of a conscience, they could have taken me down. I will never know, I didn't give them a chance to prove themselves. I did, regretfully, spare their lives.. and jeopardize the lives of any livestock around here who might fall victim to their little spree.

As further investigation showed, the billy had been killed the night previous, and the dogs returned to finish the job. The other nanny--named "Roxy"-- was still limp, implying that she died this morning. Perhaps the black dog had gotten her, and the pit bull had pursued Black Mama to the barn...  I worked last night. When I arrived home after 11pm, I checked in on the black nanny, but I didn't check on the other two, who shared a separate pen.

I have had a lot of time today to think about this morning's events, and I feel surprised at how disconnected I was in the moment that I had to shoot a mother goat in the head point blank. It was still hard to do, and the only thing harder, would have been to sit and cry as she bled out in my arms. In my inherited traditions, the words "tender mercy" have significance as something one might be grateful for, when all else is wrong. I feel it was a "tender mercy" that I decided to jump the goat pen fence, and check in on Black Mama last night, and got to put a hand on her belly, and feel one of those little baby goats poking up her side. She was warm, she was calm, and I probably actually woke her, though I didn't have a light beside the moon. I talked to her for a minute or two. Something I haven't done often in the 5 months we've shared space, and definitely not after a fresh 10" of snow has fallen... except last night. I would have felt such immense regret if I had not chosen on a whim to check in on her. When my friends are not up here sharing space, these goats are who I talk to. It keeps the cabin fever away.

Otis was a bully. He was aggressive at feeding, to the point of fending off the other two until he was full, or the food was gone. At 3 times their size, he got his way. But he was nice as ever when I was nearby. I kind of got in the habit of watching them eat, because that's the only way the nannies could eat at the same time as Otis. Sometimes, when it was too bitter cold, I would just make enough piles of hay, or alfalfa pellets that he couldn't or wouldn't try to keep them all for himself. But the last time I was lazy and cold, I turned and began to head inside. immediately Otis began butting the other two away. I turned around, righteous anger flaring up, and lept over the fence chasing Otis away from the grub. I swung at him with my foot and fell headlong over a fence post, scraping my chest and bruising some ribs. My chest felt like it had caved in. Instant Karma. I went to kick the goat, and I kicked myself.

For all the time and care, I have also directed a lot of anger and resentment at those goats. First, they are not much for conversation. Then Otis for not letting the others eat, and then the others, for not eating if I tied up Otis.. and they want food constantly. They eat more meals per day than I do. They are stubborn animals, and it can be frustrating trying to keep them penned up. Even more frustrating to tramp through 200 yards of snow to get them a bale of hay... After nearly impaling myself while attempting to dish him up a little of his own medicine, I decided that I will let goats be goats. If the nannies wont eat when Otis is separated from them, then I guess they prefer to eat whatever he leaves them. Goats will be goats.

Instead, I made a bunch of snowballs to throw at them. Even the wee Roxy is aggressive to the black'n, so I would chuck snowballs at them when they started fighting. But after the fence post hangup, I was too sore to even throw snowballs with any accuracy. Another tender mercy, as this was about 2 weeks ago, and I would have really felt like crap if I had been dishing out snowballs right up to their last days on this good green Earth; Mother of all. She who giveth, and she who taketh away...

I am grateful for life today.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Study It Out In Your Own Mind

Lately, questions like 'why would 'God' allow suffering though he has the power to stop it or intervene' have been discussed in the aftermath of natural disasters, massacres and social injustices. But to me, there are questions that invites only a short-sighted, here-and-now, way of looking at 'God'. And frankly, they don't interest me anymore, because they entail far too many presuppositions of what 'God' is. More pertinent questions would be: What is 'God', and what isn't 'He'? Is 'God' to be found in suffering and vice versa?  Does God' *want* us to suffer? Does 'He' speak to some of us, and not others? The last one may seem like an unrelated question, but it seems paramount to many interpretations of who 'God' is to many people across  all cultures.
‎One thing I believe about 'God': 'He' would either talk to everyone, or talk to no one; a level playing field for everyone.I have spent a lot of time exploring these two options as alternatives to the 3rd option (the one which I was raised to believe in) which is that of 'God' handpicking who 'He' talks to, in accordance to 'His' big plan. I can only explore these possibilities by being dedicated to scrutiny. As some say of faith, one might say of reason "it is found in the exercising of it". *really* turning a critical eye to the morality of my traditional, inherited God-concept, and what it must say of 'Him'...

I have never been comfortable with my inherited God-concept. 'He' has been a fearfully paralyzing, angry, vengeful, shaming, and cruel force in much of my life, and continues to be so, even though I no longer accept 'His' existence. This is best summarized in scripture(predictably enough)  Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." a sentiment which reverberates in Jesuit indoctrination philosophy:  "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man"

7.... 8... who's counting?

I find it hard to remap the fear-induced thought patterns associated with the idea of damning myself to an eternity of "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth" by not "choosing the right". Thus, I feel that my relationship to my inherited God-concept, and more importantly, 'His' relationship with me, is one that most human beings evolve out of as toddlers: Morality established through fear of consequences. Behaviors that are externally motivated by threats of damnation. This is poor child-rearing behavior, especially for 'God'.

What do this 'God's actions say about 'Him'? After all, our actions may say the world of us. So why should 'God' not be conceivable in the mind of someone created in 'His' own image? Surely we must *understand* 'His' actions, if we are commanded to *emulate* 'His' actions. Especially, if (as I was taught) we are to become *like* 'Him'...

One thing I could not understand was, why 'God' would make Jesus suffer so much that he bled from every pore? seems like 'gratuitous blood and violence' to me. And why 'God' would tell Abraham to kill his son? This story, among others, shocked me as a child; What if Abraham had just decided to get it over with as fast as possible? What if he hadn't opened his eyes to see the angel? (and again, I pondered these questions as a young teen, attending "Seminary"). Such as when 'God' kills an Israelite for attempting to save the Ark of the Covenant from toppling off a wagon-- a compulsive reflex at worst, and a noble intention, at best-- but 'God' had a lesson to teach everyone: 'I am everywhere. Always. There are no mistakes. Let this be a warning: Do NOT interfere with my plans, or you will be struck dead for doubting, as this man did'. Why? Because he wasn't a Levite? Didn't seem fair. And if 'He' did that sort of thing then, would 'He' do so now?

Could I get myself struck dead? If I challenged 'God', would 'He' send down a bolt of lighting? Or would 'He' just damn me for eternity, and I wouldn't find out til I died? Ultimately, I decided that 'God' knew my heart. At first, I thought "'God'  knows my heart, so 'He' would never kill me for trying to do the right thing..." but then I thought "'God' knows my heart, so 'He' knows that I hate 'Him', and it doesn't matter if I curse 'Him' aloud or not, I can damn myself with my internal thoughts...." and perhaps a few years later, I thought "I'm so glad that 'God' knows everything I think, because my sincerity cannot be denied..." My sincerity has always guided me to keep searching for answers that made sense.

For a much of my life, I have though that this meant studying and hoping to encounter a certain phrasing of what I had already learned, in such a way that I could understand, or wrap my head around it. Initially, My 'God' didn't seem so mysterious. The world was also much less mysterious, because of course, my belief was that it was less than 10,000 years old, and 'God' had personally designed every aspect of my reality, and I would learn how in the *next* life. But when one comes to terms with the age of the earth, certain things just stop adding up. my inherited God-concept became more and more a mystery, and my desire to understand ;'Him' became more and more compelling. Eventually, I stopping being curious about my inherited God-concept, and started being curious about 'God', or my own, personal, God-concept.

 Lately, I've been pondering upon what exactly this inherited 'God' I was raised to worship was asking of me.
In my inherited belief system, 'God' supposedly been watching over this universe for its entire lifetime (10,000-  13.77 Billion years). So, how would he allow himself, as an omniscient and omnipotent, omnipresent deity, to get into the situation of having to kill 'His' own child? and why would 'He' then want us to emulate, or celebrate that behavior? why would the suffering and death of 'His' son be the culmination of 'His' Big Plan? "Do I really want to "become as 'God'"..."? I decided I owed it to myself, to do my due diligence to the truth, and rethink my concept of 'God'. From there, I decided to re-investigate what exactly it would mean to follow the teachings of Christ, and that led to accepting him as a wise man, possibly fictitious, but no less or more compelling than the story of the Buddha, or Krishna, or Dionysus was/is to their respective age and culture.

This 'God' who supposedly spoke to an uneducated 14 year old farm boy sounds right on the money: don't explore other religions. explore your own mind. Unfortunately  I don't believe the 14 year old boy was any more "chosen" by 'God' than anyone else in this world, and his take away message seems nothing short of skewed at best. The time has come for our world to retire the archaic vernacular of oppressive, repressive religion. We are "worth" our weight in 'God'.

Stop looking for the *exceptions* to be your ruler.
Don't accept that you are 'unworthy' of anything.
Stop seeing yourself as exceptionally unworthy, everyone is dealing with the same thoughts and feelings that you are.

My 'God' would never use an adjective with the root "worth" to describe 'His' own creations. If 'God' makes no mistakes, everyone is worth exactly as much as everyone else, right?

Then we are all "worth-y".