Monthly Archives: July 2015

R.I.P. Cecil: A Thought On Trophy Hunting

I don’t have a problem with hunting.  Or hunters.  Or eating some tasty wild game for that matter.  I’ve helped raised three boys, they all know how to handle a firearm properly and two of them are avid hunters.  They’ve grown up on wild pig, venison, elk, bear, buffalo (culled from a local farm), squirrel, duck, dove, and turkey.   Most of the game is hunted with a bow, and with a religious foundation of ethical hunting tenets – you kill it you eat it, abide by hunting laws, and respect the privilege.  I’ve always supported the ability to hunt even in an age where I can ‘buy organically’ because I understand that thousands of years of evolutionary behavior cannot be tamed. (We don’t need to have sex anymore in order to procreate, but……)

I do have a problem with trophy hunting, particularly in this day and age of fragile ecosystems and endangered species.   When we take out the elk with the biggest rack, the tom with the longest beard, or the lion with the largest head, we aren’t just eliminating an old animal that would die soon anyway.  We are eliminating the best gene pool from the species and this is costing us in the long run.  It also belies a level of disrespect for nature, something many hunters claim to possess in great quantities.

Cecil_the_Lion

photo courtesy wikipedia

Cecil got to his ripe old age because he fought and clawed his way there.  His genetic make-up is obviously strong and in the scheme of things its desirable to have those valuable genes passed down as often and as much as possible.   Cecil was old, but even another two years of breeding allows for a better family in the long run. Translating the idea to other animals, take deer hunting for example, when we continue to hunt trophy animals we eventually deplete the strongest gene pools and we end up with fewer and fewer six- and seven-point bucks.   It’s a very real issue in my area.

There’s another issue to consider as well.  We bi-pedals are obligated to take a moral high road.  Cecil earned his stripes by being top of the line for years, doesn’t he also earn a certain amount of conscious respect from his fellow animals for having done so – especially in the wild?   I mean  if we claim to have some sort of spiritual respect for nature and the place that hunting has within it, then the achievement of a long lived life in the wild deserves respect in its own right.   Cecil’s life got no respect from the man who shot him and the guides that enabled the action.  No wonder plenty of people are outraged.

When Gandalf gave the sword Sting to Bilbo Baggins, he advised him strongly with these words: “True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.”

Here’s to you Cecil, for a life long lived, a life well lived, and a life that reached far beyond the norm.  We should all hope to have the same.

Yours, Frankie

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Working!

Myself and my illustrator in a creative jam sesh for a children’s book I converted from a short story. Go write something today kids……

caseyandi


Third Person

I’m a morning kind of guy and like to sit out on my deck with a hot cup of coffee so that I can watch the world wake up.   Across the lane from me is a canal with an easement road on the other side of it.  A variety of persons use the dirt road: runners, groups of kids going to school, and a few walkers. There is one who stands out among them.

She comes round three or four times a week with her dog.  The road is gated and ends just where my back yard sits across from it and instead of turning around and making her way home like everyone else, she’ll sit there on the bank of the canal. This is one of the reasons she stands out; what kind of person stops and just watches the water?

I mean, this girl watches the water.   Her pose does not change for moments at a time (she’s inevitably interrupted in her meditations by the dog as it shakes off the water from its coat right next to her after a dip in the canal).  She seems purposeful in her thought.   What is it she ponders, I wonder myself as warm coffee keeps out the cool morning chill, or does she? Maybe she only notices the sway of the algae in the current and thinks of nothing else.   Perhaps just the action of the water dragging against a low hung tree branch is enough to encapsulate her thoughts.

Whatever the content of her imaginations, it must be important for her to sit there and commune with her surroundings as she does.  She makes it a point.  An appointment, in fact, with herself and her world with which she seems to interact on as intimate a level as anyone I’ve seen in my long life.

Take her dogs for example.  I’ve seen her with two over the years.  The one with her this morning she’s only had for a while, still a pup.  The first one must have passed on.  I watched one morning as it chased a squirrel and fell over on its side in convulsions.   She ran to the animal, soothed it, calmed it, and after a while she picked it up to carry it to where ever home was. Their walks were less frequent after that, and then one week she was back on schedule, this time with a small black thing that is now a big black thing.  She’s good with the dog.  She’ll call it to her on occasion, rewarding it with some treat or other.  She makes it sit and does so with just a slight hand gesture, impressive.

Besides the way she interacts with her dogs there are other clues to her connection with nature.  She almost always touches the low hanging tree limbs of the aged oak tree that provides a canopy over the easement road. She can call a horse or two to the fence and pet them. There are times I see her with a feather tucked in her hat; once I watched her reach among the reeds to claim a nice size turkey feather. She promptly stuck it in her hair.

She always has a baseball hat on.   She pulls her long hair through the opening in the back.  They vary in color and insignia and I’ve queried on some quiet mornings if she chooses the hat specifically or randomly?

Specifically, I think.  She dresses neatly and appropriate to the weather.  She walks upright, shoulders square, eyes in front (this too sets her apart since most walk with a slumped shoulder or head down). She’s fit so she doesn’t slack in the exercise department. These are the actions of a person who is deliberate in her choices.   Which particular hat to wear must weigh in her mind I would think.

There’s a bit of a rebel in her despite the meticulous presentation.  I notice a few tattoos, on the ankles and forearms (I suppose I could make them out if I employed my binoculars, but I’m not one to be that nosy.  Besides, I sort of like the mystery).  They hint at a kind of contradiction, I think.  Proper in just about every way, the ink belies the undercurrent of an unorthodox life, especially in this conservative town.   The contrast makes her even more mysterious:  does she know what the conflict is?  Has she made peace with herself over it, or is it something she still navigates? I’ll never know, most likely, but the preponderance is worth my time somehow.   Maybe I’ll find answers to my own contradictions.

She’s taught me a couple of things, and that’s saying something for this old man.  She taught me to just watch. The power of observation and quiet is a tool I am happy to have acquired, thanks to her.   She’s taught me to be freer.   She apparently is unaware that she’s observed since all her actions are without restraint, without inhibition.  She is open to her world more than any other person I have seen, and the example inspires me. She’s sure to have her faults, she’s human after all.  But she seems to live on a more interactive level of life than most and I for one am fascinated by her ability to do so.

She’s come and gone for the day which means my time for musing should come to an end as well. Those chores aren’t gonna do themselves. Thanks for listening.

*author’s note:  Aldous Huxley sez, ” To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift.” The Doors of Perception, 1954.  The quote hounded me and this short story is the result of its persistence.  I turned it into a writing exercise, a challenging one at that.   It’s tempting to divulge too much, give away a small detail, or step out of character and yield to my own interpretation.  I’m not so sure I succeeded in every way, its difficult to remain objective about oneself, but the introspection was worth.   Keep writing kids……Frankie.


The Harry Potter Effect: Religion, Fear, and Reality

Harry Potter’s influence reaches far beyond the sphere of providing an entertaining story for children to read. When the first book arrived  here in the US there was all kinds of uproar in the christian community about its defamation of Jesus and apparent blatant attempts to sway children towards satanism and magic – I received an email from a dear church friend of mine saying so.

At the time I was still in deep in the church, a worship leader and children’s church director, but bubbles of doubt had been making their way to the surface of my conscious thought for a couple of years , instigated by my observations about the world within christianity and the world outside of it.   When the email hit my inbox I read it, followed up on the links and also researched what other christian parents were saying about the book.   In the end, I realized the only way I could make a reasonable decision about Harry Potter was to read the book myself.

It was a watershed moment for me.   First, there was no defamation of Jesus, no promotion of Satan.  There are no religious connections in the book whatsoever which means the email circulating was a complete lie and the author of the note either read the book and lied about it anyway, or didn’t read the book and decided to promote a fear-inducing story based on ignorance.

Then, I began to look at other issues the church was talking about by reading the leading publications.  Instead of taking their word for it, I did the research myself. In each instance I found that the church was absolutely promoting false information and with an obvious overtone of fear.  Whether or not there was a god, I made my decision to leave the church.   Even HE couldn’t condone the obvious lies, I thought.

A recent article published by Christianity Today takes a look at the tornado of fear stirred up by Harry Potter and other issues and confesses that on the whole, there really is much ado about nothing.  To this day I am willing to research just about anything that pops up on my facebook feed in the hopes that someone, somewhere may just get it right.  Alas, there’s always more hype and subterfuge than reality reveals, and the fear inducing rhetoric is blatant as always.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  The premise for converting to christianity is fear of going to hell so using fear to keep the congregation clinging to something more hopeful is of course the preferred modus operandi.   What saddens me, what concerns me, what “really grinds my gears” is the blind acceptance of it all.   Even the author of the CT article stops short of actually admitting that their assertions were lies.  Instead he provides a short analysis on the idea that maybe the church is becoming more accepting – thereby missing the point that all the issues he exemplifies have been circulated as a means to promote fear.  Whether or not Harry Potter actually affected millions of young minds didn’t matter, what mattered was successfully creating a shroud of fear and anxiety so that we couldn’t see for ourselves the reality of the issue – this was a harmless book that reiterated the same hero theme as Jesus’ own story.   Sigh.  Even in the admission that there’s been much ado about nothing, we are still unable to admit that fear is used as an effective tool by the church to keep its people isolated from reality.

Here’s to those who are willing to look beyond the fear.

Frankie


Two Documents: Only One Choice

The Fallout.

By that I mean all the noise of discussions occurring in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality.

In the balance, it seemed, a contention between our Constitution and the Christian bible. One creates a framework within which our society has agreed to operate, the other creates a framework for a set of spiritual  beliefs.

In the end, only one document could triumph.

In the balance, it seemed, a contention between equal rights as mandated by our founding document, and a religious restriction mandated by a dubious text.  In the recent past, during a time when the idea of equality for all mankind was becoming the basis for instituting governments, our founding document was carefully constructed by a group of men intent on shaping a nation where equal rights as humans was celebrated and paramount – creating a democracy where not just voting was established as a right, but affirming that the very trait of being human grants us equal footing in the law and access to opportunities.  In the far far past, during a time when bleeding was thought the best thing in medicine and something called ‘the humors’ dictated a physician’s approach to sickness, a group of men gathered at the command of a clever ruler to collate ‘the bible’ into a cohesive religious document so as to unite his kingdom.  One document exists in its pure form, un-edited, un-tainted and is intended to stand objectively – regardless of one’s personal belief.  One document exists with omissions and editions, its content is wholly subjective to the point of dictating one’s personal belief.

In the end, only one document could triumph.

When the fallout noise settles down, I hope we can remember this at the end of the day:  only one document could triumph in this instance, and it does so to guarantee the right to belief in the other – or not.

May we celebrate our independence and democracy this weekend with grateful hearts.

Yours, Frankie