On taking a life

Would you take a life?

The wind gusted as I arrived home, violently shaking the lermucia and eucalypt alike. The day had been still, hot and I had not been gone long, yet the atmosphere was vastly different to the one I left. I walked through my room, change a light bulb, and headed out onto the deck of the pool. The owner has thrown a lot of chlorine in there today and I want to check that it has dissipated. Actually I have no real reason to go out there, I have no end of other tasks to do, but this one seems to call to me, just as it had yesterday.

Yesterday, in the same scenario, I came out to find a black snake caught in some netting that hangs over the rocks by the pools edge. I sat with the snake for two hours, on and off, and then assisted the snake handler to remove him. My senses, although usually pretty keen, are particularly wary in this space today.

It doesn’t take long to see it. A rat. It is still and leaning against a hose. It is wet. My guess is it has fallen into the pool, the chlorine level being lethal to a beast this small. One of its eyes is black and swollen out of its head. Ants are swarming around it and I can see flies crawling on its belly. It has been here for some time I think. Suddenly its body convulses and settles into a slow regular breath. It is not dead, not yet. 

I sigh heavily as i know what must be done. There’s a knot in my stomach. To leave it now, to turn my back and walk away, pretend I never saw it, is simply not possible. It would be an insult to the animal yes, but it would be a far greater insult to myself. An insult to who I am and who I wish to be, to my ancestors and to the future generations. 

I dig a small hole under the lemon tree. I push the rat onto the shovel, it’s blind and beaten body still protests against the unseen hand of his Grim Reaper. His limbs, clearly in pain, still react to fend off the inevitable. Lofted on this chariot he is gently guided into the cool hole prepared for him and him only. He huddles there. I wonder if he has found comfort or perhaps is now wanting it. It will come to him. 

“From the day we are born until the day our bodies pack it in and we shuffle off this mortal coil, we are involved in a struggle. The great struggle of life. Your struggle is now at an end, little friend. Your pain will pass. There will be no more suffering.”

With that I stand, take a breath and then bring down the scythe that is the edge of the shovel onto the rats neck. And again. And again. And again. There will be no more suffering. 

And just like when I hunt an animal, a little part of me dies with it. Were the words I spoke for the rat or for myself? Was the comfort I sensed just a part of my psyche, dawning with the awareness that it will be severed from its pain soon enough?

I bury it and pack the earth. No being deserves to suffer like that. I cant help but draw the analogy between the rat and us. Of all the pain we cause ourselves as humans when we near the end of our lives, when we are in pain from the burning chemicals of our world. The Dr Frankenstein of modern medical science, re animating corpses, bringing back those who are ready to leave. We have created our own purgurtory in which we must linger, and suffer. Robbed of our power to exit this existence in our own time, with our own dignity. It begs the question of me: Had I the choice, with a human, would I? Could I? A question I’ll not be able to answer.

But I can answer it with animals. It appears with increasing frequency in fact that I must answer this with animals. Over the past few months I have encountered many animals in various stages of distress. Some I’ve had to help, some I’ve had to leave to their own fate, some I was too late for and some I had to end their lives. All of them though I did not turn away from. All of them I stopped the car for, sat in sun or rain for, sometimes even risked my life for. I know I’m not alone, there are others who stop and help animals. I wonder though, how many of us are willing to take an animals life. 

I understand the reluctance, I mean it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s emotionally traumatic. In fact if you don’t find it hard I feel you should perhaps go have a chat with a psych. But it’s also an integral part of life. Avoidance of the pain around death will not alleviate it. It will not make death go away. In our culture, with our obsession with looking young and our treatment of our elders as lepers, all stemming from an avoidance of death, it is still there. It still binds us all with a common thread. It truly may be the only ‘oneness’ that is absolutely common to all life. 

There is a level of intimacy that is formed around death. A bonding of those involved, differing from yet similar to the intimate bonds created around birth, sex and many other formal or informal rites of passage. Yet we are still so very avoidant of anything to do with death that we miss out on this. Perhaps this is a place were we can ‘leap forwards’ as a society. Our culture has seen many revolutions in the recent past: Sexual and gender based liberation, equality movements and revolutions, so perhaps our next step is to open up the conversation about death. Perhaps we need a Death liberation. 

So, how comfortable are you with thought of taking a life? If you’re uncomfortable, why are you? What is your relationship with death? 

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Travelling to see or travelling to expand

Why do we really travel ? To see the world or to know thyself…In my opinion, ‘seeing’ different places in the world is the physical element of travel, but it is not the means to the end. 

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

All our world is, is perspective. The real magic of travel comes from its ability to shatter, widen, expand and change our perspective. And for this reason, if we travel with a rigid mind that is not open to adapt to the new information and stimuli coming in, but instead finds a way to assimilate everything we see to fit with our preconceived perspectives, are we as people really ‘travelling’ at all? Or is it merely our physical bodies and fixed minds moving from place to place, with no real change taking place. 

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S Eliot. 

We are all unique, with different journeys, all finding our way to go about this thing called life. Some are able to gain the same perspective shifting experiences through deep meditation, some seek the physical experience of travelling and others seek to keep their reality the way they know it, choosing comfort and stability. 

On my personal journey I have come to realise I value growth more than ease. I have avidly seeked challenges to test myself, unknowingly creating rites of passages for myself to move from one phase of self to another (this is another discussion). There comes a time when the risk it takes to remain with the consistent world as it is ‘known’, becomes more painful than the risk it takes to dive into the world of unknown possibilities. 

The necessary breaking of illusions… We are born into the world with wisdom. This ‘wisdom’ or ‘feelings of truth’ as some might say, are gradually eroded from our souls and replaced with the ‘truths’ of society, ie. the programming that becomes so deeply engrained that many never think to question, thus, unknowingly accept them as truths. 

My question is, what isn’t an illusion? 

I have embarked on what is a never ending quest for my truth, the kind of ‘truth’ that gives my full body tingles with knowing, the kind where the mind is not involved, there is no back and forth to come to a conclusion, instead it is as if somebody just dropped a letter into the mailbox of the back of my head, and boom there it is. 

As we are constantly changing, so too should our beliefs and views of the world. This is why openness is essential, flexibility of ones belief system gives space to learn and adapt. By opening our letterboxes we are saying ‘yes’ to find truths that continue to resonate more and more deeply with our core self… And what will be true for me may be completely different for you. But a little side note, as your truths increase in strength of knowing, the more likely you are to attract a tribe with those same truths 😉 

So anyway, travelling, what has this got to do with any of this ? Well in my experience, travelling has been an accelerated way to widen my perspective on the world, particularly when experiencing worlds and cultures so vastly different from my home culture. In this globalised world many are not born into a unified culture, or even those who are reject it if they begin to see beyond it and begin to feel the limitations it may place on their uniqueness. This blesses us with the opportunity to create our own world entirely, based on what resonates most with our core self. We can learn a bit from the zen monks, a dab from the Vedic yogis, a swab from the shamans of the south, a pinch of the Druids of the north and a dash of the warriors of the Norse, and bake on 180 until golden. All the while rejoicing the unique qualities of each and celebrating the similarities. 

I see it important that while rejoicing in the differences of the specifics of any culture or tradition, we also need to recognise the foundational aliveness that connects us all. In this time especially I see it critical need to break any illusion of separation, and to understand the foundation from which we each spring forth, the same womb of the same Nature (why Mother Earth of course). I view this to be the most valuable ‘result’ of travelling -when so many illusions have been cast away, so many programmes unlearned, that we are stripped back to the root of our being. Our definition of ‘family’ becomes global and infinite, and our definition of ‘home’ goes back so many layers that we are at home again everywhere on the Earth.