Arimathea
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O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
Tuesday, February 10, A.D. 2009
Ants and Butterflies

Last week, I read an interesting article on the Maculina rebeli butterfly—“Ants tricked into raising butterflies.” This European butterfly lays its eggs near ant nests, and the resulting catepillars exude scents and mimic sounds to trick the ants into feeding them, caring for them, and even protecting them from predators:

But, not content just to be fed, the butterflies even manage to demand special treatment, Jeremy A. Thomas of Britain’s University of Oxford and colleagues report.

It turns out that ant queens make subtle sounds that signal their special status to worker ants. The caterpillars have learned to mimic those sounds, the researchers say, earning high enough status to be rescued before others if the nest is disturbed.

In times of food shortage, nurse ants have been known to kill their own larvae and feed them to the caterpillars pretending to be queen ants, they added.

Amazing is our world, full of wondrous things.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, February 10, Anno Domini 2009
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Monday, January 5, A.D. 2009
Giving Vegetarians a Bad Name

It is bad when insinuations of vegetarianism are enough to ruin a political campaign . . . In Montana last fall, Democrats accused the Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown of being a vegetarian, which Mr. Brown vigorously denied. According to the Billings Gazette:

“I am not and have never been a vegetarian,” Brown said.

“I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana’s livestock industry.” . . .

“If this was a simple misunderstanding, that would be one thing, but this is clearly an attempt by Gov. Schweitzer and his political hacks to discredit me amongst livestock producers, and it’s beyond offensive,” Brown said.

Well, Roy Brown lost. False accusations tanked his candidacy. Just imagine what it must be like for those of us who truly are vegetarians. We can only pray that we can keep to “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” environs lest we be outed. Then, the haters come knocking . . .

However, certain extremist animal rights whackjobs want to ruin our image in the public’s mind even more. You may know of P.E.T.A. through their antics and their whorish celebrity supporters. Being the incentive to get Pamela Anderson to agree to a comedy roast was probably the only good deed ever accomplished by those insane people. Now, P.E.T.A. wants everyone to refer to fish as “sea kittens” so that people will become more sensitized to the plight of our piscine neighbors.

Anyway, I may have found a group even more deluded than P.E.T.A. As far as I know, P.E.T.A. has no problem with your having dogs and cats as pets, as long as you treat them humanely. As far as that goes, I entirely agree with P.E.T.A. In contrast, Animal Freedom condemns pethood as a form of animal bondage. “Animal dependency” is unethical exploitation. The goldfish bowl is an instrument of torture. Pet owners are psychologically disturbed. Though not dealing with pets, I learnt that angler fishing is a form of rape:

With their fishing rod, a type of extended penis; men wait by the side of the pond until a fish takes their seductive bait. The animal is hooked, reeled in, sometimes admired for a minute and then measured, shortly thereafter to be released again. Multiple contacts at the waterfront, you might say. And afterwards the fishermen brag to each other about how big it was and what a struggle it was to reel it in.

And the fish? The fish (if it survives) swims away wounded, to chance becoming another fisherman’s victim.

The fisherman is another one of those people who has not freed himself from the wish for confirmation. He angles for compliments. Had he been given enough love and attention as a child, he would feel no need to experience time and again if the fishes would bite. Not for nothing is fishing an activity mainly carried out by mischievous children and boring old men. Which is precisely the category that doesn’t score well with women. However, mothers play a dual role in this. They hate being used by men and they hate that men fish. But still they would rather see their men spending their time on the waterfront and directing their energies towards fishes than towards chasing women.

I wonder what my fisher-mother would say . . .

Animal Freedom’s writings are fascinating. I enjoy reading them in the same way that I find Mormon catechetical works to be quite fun. It is like fantasy literature—but really believed!

As one who cares for animal welfare—and as a vegetarian—I probably agree with the Animal Freedom folks far more than the average omnivorous Joe. However, I believe in a hierarchy of creatures, with man at the top—at least among Earthlings (or Terrans, for you weirdo sci.fi. geeks). As such, I do not mind the human exploitation of nature—as long as such exploitation respects nature. That is a vague guideline, but I basically mean that we can reap benefits from the land and from its creatures as long as we are responsible and ethical in our relations with them by ensuring their continued health and existence. In other words, we should not drive species to extinction through our exploitation. We should be mindful of natural resources—not only for selfish reasons, for the sake of calculated future goods, but also out of respect for natural things’ inherent worth. When species vanish due to our actions (we cannot answer for natural extinctions), when beautiful places turn ugly from callous development, when men subject a creature to treatment that does not respect the dignity fitting to it, then the world is worse from human action. Moreover, we should not engage in actions that render our souls ugly or perverse, as animal cruelty definitely does so. Rather, as with our fellow human beings, we should aim for the flourishing of all.

I do not think that having pets—at least animals who have been domesticated since the dawn of history—violates the aforementioned principles. Dogs have co-evolved with human beings for so long, we belong together. To use language that must be familiar to the Animal Freedom folks, pets celebrate and encourage interspecies understanding, love, and tolerance. Why would we want a homospecist society when we could benefit from diversity?

Some “animal rights” folks find zoos to be no better than cheap circus-style exploitation. However, zoos are among the conservation movement’s most effective instruments. They instruct people about the natural world and cause them to care about conservation efforts. Just think how many people donate to and become members of the World Wildlife Fund because they fell in love with wildlife at their not so wild city zoo. Imagine how many write to elected officials with regard to environmental policy because of their experience in zoos. Furthermore, for the last several decades, zoos have also been instrumental in breeding and reintroduction programs that save endangered species. The world is a much better place today because of zoos.

So, note that not all vegetarians are kooks. Well, you might think that I am a kook, as well, but I assure you that somewhere, out there, live unkooky vegetarians with whom you might someday share a train ride or a moment of leisure on a park bench. Do not be afraid. They do not believe in eating you.

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 5, Anno Domini 2009
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Wednesday, December 17, A.D. 2008
Man’s Best Friend

You have probably already seen this video, but I wanted to post it, anyway. It shows footage taken by government monitors on a busy highway in Chile. In it, one dog wanders onto the highway and is hit by a car. Afterward, another dog comes along and pulls the injured or dead dog to the highway median. It is disturbing to watch the first dog get hit, but the attempted rescue by the second dog is extraordinary:

You can read the Los Angeles Times article, “Hero dog pulls another dog from oncoming traffic.”

I always find these stories amazing. Throughout recorded history, animals, and especially man’s best friend, have again and again shown themselves to be remarkable creatures. I pity anyone who knows not the love of a dog. Such cannot be said of Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the following three poems.

“His Apologies”

Master, this is Thy Servant. He is rising eight weeks old.
He is mainly Head and Tummy. His legs are uncontrolled.
But Thou hast forgiven his ugliness, and settled him on Thy knee . . .
Art Thou content with Thy Servant? He is very comfy with Thee.

Master, behold a Sinner! He hath committed a wrong.
He hath defiled Thy Premises through being kept in too long.
Wherefore his nose has been rubbed in the dirt and his self-respect has been bruised.
Master, pardon Thy Sinner, and see he is properly loosed.

Master, again Thy Sinner! This that was once Thy Shoe,
He has found and taken and carried aside, as fitting matter to chew.
Now there is neither blacking nor tongue, and the Housemaid has us in tow,
Master, remember Thy Servant is young, and tell her to let him go!

Master, extol Thy Servant, he has met a most Worthy Foe!
There has been fighting all over the Shop—and into the Shop also!
Till cruel umbrellas parted the strife (or I might have been choking him yet),
But Thy Servant has had the Time of his Life—and now shall we call on the vet?

Master, behold Thy Servant! Strange children came to play,
And because they fought to caress him, Thy Servant wentedst away.
But now that the Little Beasts have gone, he has returned to see
(Brushed—with his Sunday collar on) what they left over from tea.

Master, pity Thy Servant! He is deaf and three parts blind.
He cannot catch Thy Commandments. He cannot read Thy Mind.
Oh, leave him not to his loneliness; nor make him that kitten’s scorn.
He hath had no other God than Thee since the year that he was born.

Lord, look down on Thy Servant! Bad things have come to pass.
There is no heat in the midday sun, nor health in the wayside grass.
His bones are full of an old disease—his torments run and increase.
Lord, make haste with Thy Lightnings and grant him a quick release!

“Dinah in Heaven”

She did not know that she was dead
But, when the pang was o’er,
Sat down to wait her Master’s tread
Upon the Golden Floor,

With ears full-cock and anxious eyes,
Impatiently resigned;
But ignorant that Paradise
Did not admit her kind.

There was one step along the Stair
That led to Heaven’s Gate;
And, till she heard it, her affair
Was—she explained—to wait.

And she explained with flattened ear,
Bared lip and milky tooth—
Storming against Ithuriel’s Spear
That only proved her truth!

Sudden—far down the Bridge of Ghosts
That anxious spirits clomb—
She caught that step in all the hosts,
And knew that he had come.

She left them wondering what to do,
But not a doubt had she.
Swifter than her own squeal she flew
Across the Glassy Sea;

Flushing the Cherubs everywhere,
And skidding as she ran,
She refuged under Peter’s Chair
And waited for her man.

There spoke a Spirit out of the press,
Said:—“Have you any here
That saved a fool from drunkenness,
And a coward from his fear?

“That turned a soul from dark to day
When other help was vain;
That snatched it from wan hope and made
A cur a man again?”

“Enter and look,” said Peter then,
And set the Gate ajar.
“If I know aught of women and men
I trow she is not far.”

“Neither by virtue, speech nor art
Nor hope of grace to win;
But godless innocence of heart
That never heard of sin:

“Neither by beauty nor belief
Nor white example shown.
Something a wanton—more a thief—
But—most of all—mine own.”

“Enter and look,” said Peter then,
“And send you well to speed;
But, for all that I know of women and men
Your riddle is hard to read.”

Then flew Dinah from under the Chair,
Into his arms she flew—
And licked his face from chin to hair
And Peter passed them through!

“The Power of the Dog”

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But . . . you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ‘em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

I thank John Derbyshire for bringing this last poem to my attention.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, December 17, Anno Domini 2008
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Friday, November 28, A.D. 2008
Vegetarian on Black Friday

Today is the high holy day of American consumerism, and every year my family and I ritualistically participate in the all night and all day liturgy of spending—it is a cultural celebration. Spain has its Holy Week parades, Germany has its Oberammergau, and we have credit card debt. In the spirit of the day, I offer below some online stores where you can purchase vegetarian goods.

Yes, I am a vegetarian. I have been one for ten years, and before that, I was occasionally vegetarian on and off since I was a small child. Yet, those early attempts always ended violently, with my exasperated mother’s shoving dead animal product down my throat. When I became too big for such parental oppression, it was just a matter of time until I climbed on the wagon for good.

I am also one of the “crazy” ones who does it out of principle. I liked the taste of meat, and I am not particularly health conscious. I just do not wish to kill animals if I do not have to do so to survive—except for the few species on which I have declared an unending war. For them, I aim at genocide to the extent that swatters, shoes, or rolled newspapers allow. These enemies are house flies inside buildings, pestilent cockroaches inside buildings, and mosquitoes anywhere—for there is no neutral zone for mankind’s deadliest foe. Besides these targets of personal warfare, I try to cause no harm.

I am not a vegan most of the time, though I realize the hypocrisy involved. I have no principled objection to dairy, but I do find the dairy industry objectionable. For I know that they butcher old cows who have given a lifetime of milk, and they sell the male offspring for meat, as well. Were I strong enough, I would probably go vegan for the whole year—but I love cheese, milk, butter, and all the lovely items made with whey. The dairy free fasting seasons throughout the year teach me well how much I crave those products.

I do not wear leather, eat gelatin, or consume anything made with carmine or cochinea extract. I do not have any problem with wool or honey. Unlike the PETA crowd, I do think that human beings should reap the harvest of our land’s natural resources, as long as it is done responsibly. My idea of stewardship, however, does not involve killing. It is a small way of trying to avoid participation in the fall—though I certainly involve myself constantly in other ways.

Sometimes folks ask me how I can stand Thanksgiving as a vegetarian, but it is wonderful. I can eat most of the dishes, and my sister, who is a superb cook, fixes special sweet potatoes and stuffing for me without any meat product. As a Cincinnatian, chili is a hard thing to give up, but my mother makes a delicious vegetarian Cincinnati style chili. Many chili parlors in the city also offer vegetarian versions, now, as well. That really just leaves goetta—our speciality breakfast meat. Last year, I finally tried vegetarian goetta at Honey in Northside, and I have put in requests to my sister to develop her own vegetarian version for me.

As for dairy free items, I recommend Silk soy milk and WholeSoy yogurt.

Below are some vegetarian and vegan links, which you might find useful.

All Creatures
Christian Vegetarian Association
Cool Vegan
Dole 5 a Day
Ethical Wares
Grass Roots Natural Goods
Green People
Institute for Plant Based Nutrition
International Vegetarian Union
JesusVeg
Leafy Greens Council
Leather Substitutes
Pangea Vegan Products
Real Goods
Shopper’s Guide to Leather Alternatives
Tomorrow’s World
Veg Family
Veg 4 Lent
Veg News
Veg Web
Vegan Essentials
Vegan Store
Vegan Wares
Veganline
Vegetarian Channel
Vegetarian Image
Vegetarian Life Tips
Vegetarian Resource Group
Vegetarian Shoes
Vegetarian Site
Vegetarian Times
Vegetarianism and Vegetarian Nutrition
Veggie Global

We have all heard the omnivore propaganda. Return to Eden and eat your veggies.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, November 28, Anno Domini 2008
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Saturday, November 8, A.D. 2008
Puffins

Like most Americans growing up with too much time and leisure, I made several “favorites” lists. Feeling the need to designate a favorite bird, I chose the puffin. You probably know those obnoxious people who want to be different—they listen to indie music, watch foreign films, and generally act like snobby arses. Well, I have always been one of those folks, and my favorite bird could not be an obvious choice like a bald eagle, hummingbird, mockingbird, or cardinal. No, I fell in love with puffins.

Why are puffins so great? Well, they are adorable. They are cute in that clumsy, penguin-like way, but they can actually fly—though not admirably well. Like penguins, they are graceful and agile in the water. They live on rocky cliffs near the sea in colder regions, and everyone knows that mountains and water make for the most aesthetically pleasing landscape. Puffins have good taste . . .

Except with breakfast. See, puffins have their own cardboard-tasting healthy cereal from Barbara’s Bakery that white people eat. It is not actually that bad; you just have to get used to the texture. I actually have come to like it—and it was much easier than the feat that I achieved when I developed a taste for Marmite after several years of struggle.

Visit the Audubon Society’s page for Project Puffin, and consider helping the little guys out. You can also learn all about puffins there.

If conservation sites are too stuffy for you, you can always visit Puffinpalooza.

Thank God for the puffins.

Posted by Joseph on Saturday, November 8, Anno Domini 2008
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Thursday, October 30, A.D. 2008
Teens Attack Seventy-Eight Year Old Flamingo

The news inordinately brings the worst of human behavior to our attention, and, in our morbid curiosity, we respond. That is why the media outlets deliver what they deliver—it gets our attention. Perhaps, we like terrible news in a perverse way because it elicits a strong emotional reaction—for the same reason that people like tragic, horror, and sentimental books, plays, and movies.

Today, we read in Adelaide Now that four teenagers in Australia attacked a seventy-eight year old blind flamingo that has been at the Adelaide Zoo since the 1930’s. The bird, named Flamingo 1, is the oldest flamingo in the world. The flamingo suffered head and beak injuries, but zoo officials are hoping that he will survive. Flamingo 1 is friendly and trusting, aside from his blindness; so, the ruffians had little trouble beating him. It makes you wonder what would possess human beings to do such a thing.

This reminds me of the summer story wherein the Eskimos killed a one hundred thirty year old whale. Even though the circumstances were very different, there is still something wrong in an animal so well constituted dying “prematurely.” If a living thing happens to survive well beyond its normal range—or within its specific range but extraordinary long for us, as with redwood trees—I feel that it is somewhat of a sacrilege to kill that thing. I am a vegetarian, anyway, but impiety befalls such killing especially.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, October 30, Anno Domini 2008
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Sunday, October 12, A.D. 2008
Creation

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Genesis, 1:1-2:3

We are to tend God’s creation as stewards, as mediators, and as priests in the cosmic liturgy. Read Bishop Kallistos’ short essay, “Who Is Man?” for a brief but illustrative view of man’s vocation with regard to the world.

Of course, the current environmental disasters were first spiritual disasters. Vice destroys the person and the person then destroys that which surrounds him. Restoring balance to the world must follow a restoration of balance within the human soul and then within human community. All other measures are mere papercut bandages on a gaping wound. Nonetheless, there are responsible and worthwhile paths to walk in the meantime. Let us try to fulfill well the trust that was put in us with the stewardship of planet Earth.

Posted by Joseph on Sunday, October 12, Anno Domini 2008
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