a place for animals to gather
once again, i find myself simply saying, YES!but to be a bit more specific, this is one of my favorite lines the gins ever penned. how can you not love this man!? and in my corner of our world, the quote has been no less relevant. i've been thinking a lot lately about the person i was before coming to naropa, and further back to the person i was before going to college. in retrospect, i am able to see that as much progress as i made during college, that i was still one angry bastard. however, in writing, and in finding that there was an interested audience, a supportive, expanding community of other people thinking and saying what i was feeling, i was overcome with what has since been a growing calmness. i became a vegetarian in college. a decision several people make ,but for me it was something more. i had never, in all of my life, eaten any vegetable besides corn or potatoes. and when i say never i mean it very literally. but i was taking a psych course tilted "death and dying" and we visited a local slaughterhouse one day and stood with a group of cows who were being ushered individually on to the killing floor. we walked in with the last remaining cow out of about a dozen. it was undeniable that the animals sensed that something was not right. that there was something unwanted coming on the other side of the door. and we walked in and we stood there while this cow was shot in the head, strung up by its feet and gutted. we stood there until we were looking at the kinds of large slabs of beef that sylvester stallone trained with in the rocky flicks. to add to this show, the man cutting, doing this to the animal was a former security guard at our school. he was a capital dickface to begin with, but he had been fired because he was caught looking up child pornography on his night shift. and here he was looking back at this group of students, several of whom, including me, had participated in more than one verbal outburst as result if his behavior. a friend of mine, miller, was his most unwelcome visitor, so he responded by casually overthrowing a piece of entrail towards the trashcan in front of us and landing it instead on miller's shoe. it looked like an accident to the unsuspecting eye, so we were not able to say anything with our mouths. eyes sent the message though. so, after this, i taught myeslf to swallow vegetables. slowly. i spent a month eating cheese pizzas and french fries trying to figure out what in the hell i had gotten myself into. but i stuck with it for six years, in which i learned to eat, to cook, and what i felt was missing about the process of food coming to my plate. (appreciation). eventually, i went to work in a fine dining restaurant that specialized in game meats, like boar and quail. after spending a few months handling the meat, i felt i had come full circle and i was comfortable going back to eating meat full time. i know that is a decision that is confusing to some people, but i think it is important to add that where i come from hunting is a way of life, a means of subsistence. and when i say hunting i suppose what i mean is a ritual interaction with nature. however it is something that my father never involved himself (or me) in because of his strong dislike of guns, stemming from his older brother john losing one of his eyes in a childhood game of cowboys and indians where they were actually using bb guns. i felt that many of my friends understood something about animals by way of their hunting experience that i simply didn't have, and that it was precisely that factor that allowed them to eat meat without flinching. my point in mentioning that is because it was the beginning of my sense of spirituality...MY sense of it. not the churches i was forced to attend as a child, not the standards of the people who attended those and other churches surrounding me. MY sense of what it meant to be connected. this is something that simply didn't exist for me at earlier periods in life. i dressed in black and didn't listen to anything outside of death metal, until almost the same period of time that i decided to stop eating meat and start thinknig on a deeper level about the world i was part of and the suffering that comes with it. in coming to naropa, i feel that i harnesed that part of myself completely, particularly after hearing sonia sanchez speak, and experiencing the work of cecilia vicuna. of course, anne and allen and many others were instrumental too, but the teachers that really flipped my mode of thought were the two women i just mentioned. sonia pulled me aside on the last day of our workshop in 2005 and said something to me that i have never forgotten; "my brotha, when you know, you must teach. you know my brotha, you know. so now you know what you must do." and after that i came home and eventually landed a job teaching in a school that is difficult to describe. it was the tail end of a wilderness therapy program for "at-risk" youth. it sat at 3500 feet and looked over all the mountains i drove through every day to get there. the feeling of getting of my car on top of that place each day was nothing short of magical. the students there lived in yurts, and we had a communal yurt reserved for rite of passage ceremonies and african drumming. in the years that i walked that mountain, allen's words became part of my way of life. my students were in pain, even the ones that seemed out of place in such a program. they were in pain. and so was i. so are all of us. at earlier points of my life i used my tongue as a weapon. i used my anger as the driving force of my personality. in college i realized that i was angry because of the way i witnessed the world, the things i saw happening around me to people, to land, to place, to life. i was furious. but i learned how to harness that pain and turn it into something that could go out of my body, something i could release. the anger would never go away when it was what i lived for. and even now, i have spent several days attempting to mediate a situation between friends that i would have turned into a fist fight a few years back. after i hung up from a very negative phone call, which i will now proudly say that i kept my calm through, i found myself feeling very conflicted because i hadn't lashed out. instead, i used what i have learned at work/school. i stayed calm and tried to find resolution...to ease the pain of living.jared, thank you for always being on the same wavelength. it is never short of astounding. and thank you allen, i have been talking about your ghost all week, and now i know why.
can't follow that response, but i too, love him! in short, let's all move to Alaska, live in yurts and live an artsy, sea-side happy communal life. I did once, in a place called Homer!!!
Tim, thanks for the detail, takes guts - no pun intended - I like the part about turning the pain into something that you could release... that is very cool.Cheers!
Tim - thank you for the courage. THe drunken dumbshow is full of pain and we all experience it at different levels. I think this forum of the barnyard is an elixir - for the days when things just don't seem to line up. Thank you all for the community and the open dialogue. I miss being being on a campus or around people where when someone says "how are you?" they really want a response.
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