2012-03-16

All in it Together

This year more people have returned to Tomas’ village. The death threats have not stopped, nor has the illegal poaching of macaw chicks. When we shared our year's research results with the village, I told the leaders that if any more parrot chicks were lost, even one more year of it, that might be the end of macaws in Honduras. So the leaders held a community meeting and decided, on their own, to organize daily parrot patrols to protect the remaining nests.

They have no money and their lives are in danger, but they elected to spend their resources to protect parrots. And they did. They prevented a lot of poaching, and when they didn’t prevent it, they were often able to catch the poachers and confiscate the chicks, which they raised themselves in the middle of nowhere with no electricity and no training in avian husbandry, and barely enough food for themselves.

Eventually eleven of the giant, red, long-tailed parrots were released and they now fly free, intermixing with their wild family members. Every day the juvenile birds return to eat rice and beans in the village.

Two months ago an armed group of 10 men came to the village and robbed it of nearly everything of value. The people are still there not giving up, and the birds are still flying free. The people know that if the birds can remain free, they can too. Liberating the birds is liberating themselves. Saving the birds is saving themselves.

These are ordinary people. They fuss with each other, strain their relationships, and give into desires that cause harm. But what they have learned is that there is no special place of privilege on this planet. We are all in it together, and if one doesn't make it, none of us do. So they aren't saints. They are looking after themselves.

Food choices are like that. Whatever we do with what and how we eat, it is the precious work of saving ourselves and our earth. We are all in the club called the predator-prey cycle.

We evolved to take care of ourselves, which means harm to others. I've always thought we needed another principle/purpose - we must harm to survive. With that existential knowledge always in mind, we could be a lot more accepting of others and a lot less denying of what it means to be human in communities of mixed species. As the first sentence of the Ethical Eating Statement of Conscience (click here) reminds us:
“Aware of our interdependence, we acknowledge that eating ethically requires us to be mindful of the miracle of life we share with all beings.”
Such awareness of independence and mindfulness of the miraculous moves us from privilege to humility and gratitude; from loneliness and alienation to radical hospitality. The Statement of Conscience goes on to say:
“Unitarian Universalists aspire to radical hospitality and developing the beloved community. Therefore, we affirm that the natural world exists not for the sole benefit of one nation, one race, one gender, one religion, or even one species, but for all. Working in the defense of mutual interests, Unitarian Universalists acknowledge and accept the challenge of enlarging our circle of moral concern to include all living creatures.”
Our passions are consuming the world. We were born to do so. Our compassion can save the world. We were born to do so. How to do this tough work? To be fed not just by our passions, but by the fulfilling sense of reverence for all of life, and gratitude.

The Statement’s last sentence is:
“With gratitude and reverence for all life, we savor food mindful of all that has contributed to it. We commit ourselves to a more equitable sharing of the earth's bounty.”
Here, then, is a recipe for succulent dish to feed us all: Equal parts gratitude and reverence. Mix well. Let sit until humility and interconnection settle. Sift out privilege. Dash liberally with commitment. Serve immediately, and eat with mouth full of compassion. Yields infinite servings.

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By LoraKim Joyner
6th and last part of "Consuming Passions"
Previous: Part 5: LoraKim: "Vice Versa"
Beginning: Part 1: Meredith & LoraKim: "The Eating Conscience"