Saturday, June 27, 2015

On Formerly Hating Crows (and Other Murderers)

Hate is a pretty strong word, but hate crows I did, for a long time, and so did my whole family.

Soon after arriving in Victoria from Scotland, we were captivated by the goings on in our back yard. From an upstairs window, we watched in anticipation as a pair of robins built a nest in the apple tree below.

Before long, the nest was complete, tiny blue eggs appeared, and instead of twigs, mum and dad robin brought home worms and insects for their hungry new brood. How we loved that little family!

Looking back, I think we identified with them because we were making a new home too.

In less than a minute, right before or eyes, it ended.

The crows attacked, the robins screamed, we shouted and screamed and ran downstairs, but far too late. Nothing remained except one of the babies, dead on the ground. In that moment, crows became evil incarnate.

I took up BB gunnery and would lay in wait in my sniper's nest in the window upstairs, having sworn vengeance upon any black bird that dared to darken our back yard. However, despite my worst intentions, I was a terrible shot and no crows were harmed.

The robins never came back, and the empty nest remained a cruel reminder for several years until my dad replaced it with a tree house. (Although at the outset I said our whole family hated crows, I don't think my dad actually did. He was a very kind man who rarely spoke ill of anyone.)

Our anger and hatred were unthinking reactions to the violence. Emotion over reason. I suppose, to put it in perspective, we might have considered that crow nestlings are also the victims of predators, few reaching adulthood because of raccoons, squirrels, foxes, hawks, owls, bullfrogs and rats.

We might even have considered the havoc wreaked on unsuspecting worm and insect families by the marauding robins.

More to the point, the crows ate the baby robins because they are crows, not because they chose to.

Said a scorpion to a frog, “Please carry me over the river.”
The frog replied, “I’m afraid you’ll sting me.”
“No, I won’t. If I stung you, we would both perish.”
“Well, OK then.”
Halfway across the river:
“Ouch! Why did you sting me?”
“Because I’m a scorpion.”

I sometimes think I have fully forgiven the crows. Although it feels true, it makes as much sense as forgiving the wind for blowing down a tree.

Forgiving humans. Well that's different, isn't it?

In the news reports that the Boston Marathon Bomber had been sentenced to death we also learned some of the victims had forgiven him.

Different, unimaginably difficult, but surely, necessary.

Image: public domain

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Good Oil

In a supermarket buying some plain soy milk for my daily banana / blueberry / cinnamon / oat bran / wheat bran / wheat germ / hemp seed / flax seed smoothie, I went through my usual ritual. Propping the cooler door open, I practically unloaded the whole shelf to get at the cartons at the very back with the latest 'best before' dates.

When I got home, I realized I had been so wrapped up in getting the freshest cartons that I had bought sweetened soy milk. Bleagh.

In the midst of berating myself for being such an oblivious dolt, I realized there was a second dynamic: I felt like a heel for needlessly seeking out the best for me, leaving the older cartons to go to someone else or even be thrown out... and for taking so long to realize I was doing it.

Then I remembered I had already figured this out years ago but had obviously forgotten the lesson. I had borrowed a car for a week or so from a friend. Before returning it, I went to top up the oil. I had a jug of cheap stuff and a small container of expensive oil. Naturally, I reached for the jug since he would never know the difference and I could save the good oil for myself.

Then, as now, a little nagging voice asked me what was so special about me that I should have the best. The good oil ended up in my friend's car.

When I exchanged the sweetened soy milk for plain, I confess I took a little pleasure in choosing the oldest cartons on the shelf.

I feel a bit awkward talking about 'good' deeds performed. Is this just ego not wanting to appear to be seeking praise? *sigh*

All the suffering there is in this world arises from wishing our self to be happy. All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy.

        -Shantideva (from the Bodhisattvacharyavatara)

Photo credit: Arne Hückelheim
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