12 March 2006
Care Before You Eat
There was a time in my life, a very rich and lovely time, when I almost lived in New York City, staying down on Gansevoort Street long before it became chic and walking to work at the Village Voice every day. And yet, I paid no rent and got to go back to California a lot. Oh, golden year!
One of my acquaintances then was the guitarist Robert Fripp, who was a friend of a friend. He was extremely soft-spoken and kindhearted, an accidental rock star who had no particular interest in the role.
So one time a group of us, mostly journalists and musicians, maybe 10 people in all, went to dinner at some downtown spot, cheap and loud and amusing. And we were talking profanely, as was our wont, and gossiping and flirting in that wide-array set-phaser-on-stun sort of way that portends nothing at all unless it does.
And then the first course arrived, and Fripp tinked his glass and said, ``I'd like to offer a blessing.''
All life is one and everything that lives is holy.
Plants, animals and people all must eat to live and nourish one another.
We bless the life that has died to give us food.
Let us eat consciously, resolving by our labors to pay the debt of our existence.
The impact on Mr. Carroll:
Every meal is an act of denial, a common agreement that ``food'' exists in a category different from ``pet'' or ``animal'' or ``soulful entity.''
It was easy for me to dismiss the idea that a carrot had a soul, although clearly Fripp in some form believed that. But a big brown-eyed cow, now, or a little lambie, or even a chicken -- who are we to say that a chicken does not have a soul? Who made us experts?
I have seen salmon swimming upstream in the endless twilight of an Alaskan summer, leaping over waterfalls, displaying characteristics that look very much like courage and tenacity and fidelity -- how do I decide that I have the holy spark and that salmon does not?
It's possible that none of us has it, that it does not exist at all. But surely that equality argues for greater respect. We're all in this together, folks, every cow and carrot among us.
This awareness of that potential for connectedness to other living things is part of what makes us human. As Jim Rosenberg is quoted on James S. Huggins's refrigerator quotations page (good stuff!):
One difference between man and beast is that in the jungle there is no group called Predators for the Ethical Treatment of Prey.The choice of what to eat is an individual one. Some of us believe there is an edict from existence or from divinity or from wisdom not to eat other animals; others among us -- myself included -- don't buy into that. Regardless, it's good every now and then, as Carroll writes, "to see the face of the lamb." And, as Mr. Fripp's prayer says, "to pay the debt of our existence."
Here we are, whether we were asked or not. Just like Howard the Duck ("Trapped in a world he never made!"). But responsible for that world and for what comes next.