4 newborn kittens
with mother cat
A Natural Jainist -
And Not -
It's Not Enough For Me
I remember reading about the Jainists, a religious group that goes around sweeping the ground in front of them so they won't step on bugs and kill them.
I could understand a group like that - such a strong desire not to hurt living creatures.
At the time - I was a child when I heard of them - I couldn't think of anything better.
Now I want better - and believe it's possible.
The Jainists didn't even try to change what was going on around them. Tigers still pounced and killed. Cats still pounced and killed. And animals still over-reproduced. So lots of early deaths had to happen, or cats and tigers, gazelles and mice, would overrun the world.
It is my utterly profound conviction - as profound as if it were dictated to me by some deity, as if the words were etched onto stone tablets and handed to me by a choir of angels
- that if ever we have a garden here on earth, if we ever get something at all like heaven on earth, we will be the ones creating it.
We're pretty awful candidates for the job. We've created horrific wars, horrific belief systems. We're capable of masses of cruelty and massive deliberate destruction. We're masters at self-deception.
So, how could we have anything to do with making heaven on earth? It must be some crazy utopian vision.
I'm at the same point Winston Churchill was at about democracy: "A pretty awful system - until you consider the alternatives." (Actually, there are quite a number of cases, where the alternatives are better than democracy - but that's another story.)
So back to our being awful candidates for the task of turning this world into heaven on earth, a utopian vision - a garden.
The list of our shortcomings goes on and on. Global warming comes to mind. The mass extinction of species. Pollution.
The only reason I see us as candidates for the job is
that we're the only candidates.
Whales may create terrific whale operas - dogs may have more natural empathy than most humans - but neither whales nor dogs have the capacity to create the technology needed for, say, limiting the birth rate of animals. Nor do they have whatever it takes to imagine doing what it might take to turn this world into a garden - a safe place for both lions and lambs.
Another utterly deep conviction. That we have never had a garden here on earth. We have had moments when all felt perfect - joy, love, radiance. That didn't change the tigers-kill-gazelles scenario - the need for tigers to kill gazelles or starve - the need for gazelles to be killed to keep their population in check - the need for most tiger cubs to die before adulthood to keep the tiger population in check.
The vision of heaven on earth doesn't come, it's my conviction, from any past. Maybe it comes from those moments when all has felt right. Maybe it comes from the deep desire for such a world.
Maybe - this is my most optimistic possibility - it comes from a future we're drawn to create because it would be so satisfying.
The gospel according to Elsa. If ever we have a garden, it will be our doing. And we will be the gardeners. An incredibly worthy, satisfying and challenging task.
Much harder than being hunters. Much harder even than being Jainists.
The Jainists let the world around them continue as it was.
The path toward technology was outside their imagination.
Who could have imagined it?
Even the path toward millions of people living with profound empathy, a higher percentage than ever before - I don't know if that was within their imagination. Maybe so. But empathy and caring - they're not enough.
What got me to write this? These thoughts aren't new for me.
I was walking the dogs early this evening. One dog - on a leash - pounced on a small skunk hidden in the tall grasses. Pounced on it, grabbed it in its mouth, and shook it hard. I struck the dog, hard, over and over, until he dropped the little skunk. But I think its back was likely broken from the shaking.
The dog didn't need the skunk for food. Instinct.
If ever this world becomes a garden, a heaven on earth, anything like a utopian vision, it won't be because of that dog, no matter how loving he is in other ways.
In me, such a profound desire for this world to be a garden - safe for the little skunk, safe for my dog, safe for me.
Will we get there? Will we be able to harvest enough protein-rich foods so that the animals that need it - like those tigers, like some humans - will have the nourishment they need?
Will we ever be able to deal with the instincts - ours, and also instincts like those of my dog, as well as the instincts of tigers?
I don't know.
I took the dogs home, then went back to the skunk. It had moved several feet, was lying on its side under tall plants. I stayed several feet away, did not want to scare it. After a few moments it raised its head, moved its front paws a few times. I knew there was no vet in the area who would deal with skunks. And what would it be like for the skunk anyway, if someone came and rounded it up. Terror. And with a broken back, what could be done anyway?
Like so often, I wished I was a powerful healer - someone with Jesus-level powers.
I stayed with the little skunk a few minutes, sent it energy, whatever was within my abilities, hoped it could feel the caring coming its way. And then I left, feeling this was the best I could do.
If it could recover, it would do so better without me. And if it was on its way to death, then again, I felt it could be more at peace without me.
And yet I still felt that it mattered that I had gone to it.
Such a beautiful evening. A tiny breeze. Air still warm but cooling after a summer day.
I will go back tomorrow.
I'm sorry I did not notice, in time, that the dog had spotted something. Now the dog is still outside, tied up - because he was somewhat skunked, and even washed with vinegar, he smells.
Now it's dark, night.
I don't know how the little skunk is doing.
What do I know? That I want, in my small way, to be part of turning this earth into a garden, a heaven on earth.
July 30, 2012
Tonight I wrote on turning this world
into a heaven on earth, basically through
an ethics of care combined with technology.
Yesterday it was something less intense -
universal ethics, universal rights.
Over and over, though,
I come to the ethics of caring -
huge in my personal ethics.
And what is next?
What comes after this diary blog on
the possibility of a heaven on earth
through technology combined with
the ethics of care?
Next? Not being about to believe
that many Muslim beliefs, facts about Islam
could actually be true.