from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 6 March 2016

for a coming extinction

Creative Commons image

Like many people who are engaged in any kind of campaigning in social or eco-activism, I feel much of the time a mix of hope and utter despair. 

I do believe that slowly, slowly there is a movement towards transformation taking place, an evolution of consciousness.

When I look around, though, at the terrible cruelty and suffering we inflict on others – our own species, and the other-than-human – and the way we are trashing the planet, it's hard to feel much other than despair at the fact that it may all be too little too late. Can we really change so much desperate stuff?

I know that what is happening is rarely intended to be cruel; it's not deliberate evil. It's out of ignorance, and a kind of blindness because our desire-bodies, as they say in esoteric teachings, want what they want to the exclusion of the needs of others.

Then there's our unexamined assumptions, beliefs, values – often things that are sanctioned by our family, our nation, our society as a whole.

And too the fact that we are not always taught the much wider and often invisible consequences of our actions. 

Most of all, perhaps, we forget we live in a web of interconnectedness, where everything is essential and has its integral place, and where any rip anywhere in the fabric of things ripples through the whole.

A week or two ago I blew off at a kind, lovely, intelligent and talented friend. (I've mentioned how my anger is close to the surface at the moment.) His crime? He said: 'But what about the fact of our dominion over the animals?' 

This phrase (belief) really presses all my buttons, and has done for a very long time. Because he is who he is, and because of the circles I move in, he could hardly have shocked me more if he'd turned out to be a climate change denier, or to exhibit Nazi sympathies, for instance.

I'm aware that I didn't handle it skillfully. A better way to relate to what he said might have been to ask him why he felt what he did: 'That's interesting. Why do you feel that we have dominion over the animals?'

Trouble is, I know only too well why people – many people – feel that. Our Western culture espouses a hierarchical view of planetary relations, with us, humans, at the top (as I've no doubt said many times on this blog before). Everything else 'below' us is there as a – red rag to me – 'resource'.

I don't know how long this has operated in at least the Western psyche. (I'm not saying it doesn't happen elsewhere; I'm simply not qualified to judge that, but historically at least in the Far East the web model of Indra's Net [a Buddhist model, also occurring in Hindu philosophy] has held more sway for longer; this is a more 'horizontal' view of interrelationship.) 

My own hobby horse is that our sense that we 'own' the earth, and that its fruits and animal species are ours to use as we see fit, as 'resources', crept into our ideology with the Neolithic farming revolution, where we moved away from the hunter-gatherer model and started to co-opt land, annex animals for our benefit, and grow crops.

Plato has to shoulder some of the responsibility. And then the entrenched bulk of it comes from Judeo-Christian teachings based on (mis?)translations and (mis?)interpretations of the Bible.

It is THE NORM for (at least Western) humans to view everything else on the planet as being put here for us.

The worst thing is that we dissociate from other species; forget we're all in this together. The Enlightenment has a lot to answer for, too – underlining this view, stressing the importance of reason and cultivating a suspicion of feeling and the feeling nature. Without feeling, how can we empathise enough as to change our ways?

What happens, in this worldview? Bit by bit everything else is co-opted for our benefit (64 billion land mammals and birds killed for us to eat every year, mostly reared and killed in conditions of terrible suffering, and a trillion aquatic animals), or is simply extinguished (like the many many species lost each week). 

And we don't even want to know, or examine our habits; if we did, we might need to change.

That's what I'm angry about. 

I've been thinking a lot the last few weeks of a heartbreaking poem by W S Merwin. Here's the opening; do read the rest on the link.

  For a Coming Extinction

     Gray whale
Now that we are sending you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

it ends like this:

    Tell him
     It is we who are important.


  1. Anger is warranted, and good, if it helps to move us towards productive action to change things. Or more like: helps us persevere, since our ability to change 'the whole' feels so limited. I'm not even talking about the wuurld and its meat-eating habits or pollution-habits or just a single country. I'm thinking about sitting at the family-table, for example, and hearing the same tired excuses about why status quo is in - why we should eat meat, why climate change is bogus, why the refugees are terrorists, why everything is everybody else's fault and so on.

    I've gotten better over the years of finding an inner shelf for this anger. Where it can lie dormant, like a package of energy, and then feed my activity, drip-wise. I know if I let it all out, it will do no good. I will create more resistance than I can handle and get nowhere. But sometimes it needs to be let out, as you have done now, and in a place where it is okay. I'm glad you shared this with us, Roselle. We know we are not alone then in having these feelings!

    Now we just have to find away to get moving again, to take the right steps, to do the right actions, to persevere in our little efforts to change stuff, despite the occasional losses of control and flinging about verbal furniture.

    Speaking of which ... how did it end with your friend? Have you, well, fallen out officially over this ... or have you just sort of bypassed it, letting it be forgotten?

  2. Hello Christopher - I've been away without my laptop for a week (it was at the vet's), and it was good to come back and find your empathic and kind comments. Thank you.

    I admire the fact that you can store your anger etc on an 'inner shelf'. Nice analogy. Mine very rarely comes out, but my despair at it all, my porosity, sensitivity, to the pain of the world seems to be so present so much of the time that I risk drowning. This isn't helpful. I'll remember your shelf image, and the 'packet of energy' metaphor - good to have a visual image here, and imagine myself putting things to rest on it, to draw out when I need its little charge of energy to make changes that I can make - after all, it's only ever ourselves we can really change, isn't it? But I'm also mindful of the thing 'If nothing changes, nothing changes'...

    He wasn't a close friend, but he was certainly taken aback. Our joint histories made it harder for both of us. However, I've apologised - not for the sentiment, but for my reactivity; and he took some time out but we're now finding a way forward, I think. Trouble is, his is the 'normal' viewpoint; mine the iconoclastic, I suppose.

    Anyway, I very much appreciate knowing that thgere are people out there, of whom you're one, who know what I'm talking about.

    As you say, we are not alone. Critical mass will come; often via the strangest routes, too.

    All best to you


  3. A belated thanks, Roselle, from this end, too - for your words. Rest assured, I will hang in there and wait for the critical mass with you. And contribute a little bit to it, too!

    You know, I'd like to share with you that I'm going to my aunt's funeral tomorrow ... and if I think about it, given what we talked about here, there's a strange confluence of experiences in that:

    Aside from the grief and family memories and occasional interest there's also all the rest ... I have a sense that once people have found their footing a little bit, the talk will come around to some of the more normal topics: politics, children, life, and perhaps where to make a good deal or two about x, y and z.

    And slowly but surely I will be reminded of who is the iconoclast ...

    For example: My surviving aunt who is the sweetest person in the world, works in a small supermarket. I'm not sure exactly why, if it is something they tell her to, or - more likely - out of loyalty to her workplace ... but every week she shares their ads on Facebook. Mostly about what good steak or calf or ribs or other meat they have on sale.

    Yes, sharing pictures of meat on sale on her Facebook page.

    And it's the most natural thing in the world for her ... and probably for, like, pretty much everyone else.

    And tomorrow we're *also* going to grieve for the loss of her sister, again (last time was on the hospital last week, where the whole family was together). We're going to talk about the grandchildren, and how they will be from now on. How my cousins are going to be. At some point how I am doing and my girlfriend and ...

    And ... I don't really know where I'm going with this, Roselle. I guess I'm just glad I have a big 'shelf'. I think I will be able to use it tomorrow, and on less sad occasions - but at other times I know I won't, and these times can be the most surprising and sometimes shocking. Perhaps like it was with your friend ...

    Anyway, enough of that. There are other pressures - in the right direction, which may add to reach critical mass before we know it. This was in my news-feed the other day. It may sound gloomy but I prefer to take satisfaction in the fact that people in high places are calculating the cost of meat-eating (and other bad habits of ours) and pushing for us to do something less costly - soon:

    All the best,

  4. Christopher, thank you for your 'accompanying' of me through this blog and our lives, and also for being a companion in the broad sense of the pooling of our consciousness, all of us who care, in trying to make a more compassionate world.

    Thank you too for sharing the sad news about your aunt; today, I guess her funeral is. I send good wishes through cyber-space to you all.

    I guess we each do the best we can; and I imagine that your relative's postings of eg cheap cuts of meat from the supermarket to which she's loyal is her way of helping the company.

    How hard it is not to judge people.

    Yes, so many news items now are concerned with the other aspects of going veggie: human health, emissions, and land use are all big issues globally, and if people start to cut meat-eating for those reasons it's more than fine by me - it's truly wonderful, even if the animal welfare issue is lower down or not even on the list. So many angles to any given project; and yes going veggie would mean we could feed 10 times as many people; going vegan yet more again. Plus reforesting could have a serious look-in. Agroforestry, in my view, is a seriously sustainable way forward.

    Today however we've had bad news here: the British government has decided to leave monitoring and regulating the meat industry for animal welfare TO the meat industry; can you imagine? I guess there'll be plenty of protests and campaigns; if not, I'll start one myself.

    All good wishes to you, Chris


  5. Another belated thanks. A lot's been going on these weeks, but I suppose we're all relatively whole, as these things go - each trying to deal with the incomprehensible in their own way.

    Speaking of incomprehensibles ... what bad news indeed about the monitoring of the meat industry in the UK. And I can see that you are already following up on this in newer blog posts. Thanks for keeping a light on this for all of us. I must admit I'm not aware of how the system functions in my native Denmark, but I'll check on it.

    I might also want to do a blog post summing up this discussion - about how we relate to people with different values, but who are closely related - family or friends. I'd like to quote from your comments as well, maybe even put it up a bit like a dialogue.

    Would that be okay with you? I'll send a link your way, of course!



    1. Hello (belatedly) Chris from the beautiful Isle of Iona, where I'm leading a retreat and been without internet access for a whole week again - so liberating!

      But lovely of course to receive and read your comments, and yes, of course you may use anything I've said that's of use - be delighted to read whatever you write up. Do let me know.

      All good things to you


    2. Well ... that took some time. But, you know, life happened.

      Anyway, I wrote an entirely new post on the same topic - but heavily inspired by our conversation and with a link to it:

      Hope you enjoy it when you get the time. And no, I am no envious of you and Iona. Not alt all. (I'll go read some more posts about this and other of your doings - right now!)

      All the best,


  6. Hi Roselle ...
    .... and Hi Chris

    I think we will find that there are more people out there in the world that DO think like us, but are trapped by the "civilization way" of thinking, and fall in line with the dominant paradigm JUST because everyone else does. It is hard to swim against a strong flow going in the other direction.

    In Exeter I'm on the brink of setting up a local network of Deep Ecology people. There won't be many of us initially, but in time we will certainly grow. I intend that we meet physically (not on the web) and we reach out to as many that will listen.

    Anger and pain - when expressed in a real living community - comes out more positively when you're with friends who can share it.

    Stay positive, always.


  7. Mozz, delighted to have your comments too. Please do let me know if and when you set up the Deep Ecology network (different from the Dark Mountain one?) - when I'm around I'd be pleased to attend meetings when I can, as would, no doubt, my partner.

    Yes, there's no room to give up.

    Thanks for all you do.



  8. I'm not in Exeter anytime soon, but I will be with you in spirit - for what it's worth. Thanks for sharing this little bit of contribution with us, Mozz. It always makes me feel more hopeful - to be reminded of what people *do*. Bit and small. Everywhere.

    All the best,


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