my thought set added a thought that belongs to a group of concepts which invariably disturb me. I thought about the baby cows taken away from their moms so the milk meant for them could be taken and sold. So some human could drink it and some other human(s) could make a profit...and in the process harm cows, harm the planet and steal from other beings.
Thinking about the fear and turmoil and sense of loss both the mom and baby must feel usually gets me started on a train of horrible thoughts about all the different animals and all the different ways they were frightened and hurt and suffering and how this just goes on and on and has gone on and on for hours, days, weeks, months, years and centuries. Then sleep is only a distant goal, unlikely to return for a long time. My sleeplessness is, of course, nothing compared to the misery my fellow humans deal out to Earthlings, but...it is mine and I do have to cope with it. Not sleeping is not an option if I want to continue to function, to live.
This is a dilemma I wrestle with constantly. How to continue to live, to function, to do all the things large and small that make up each day while at the same time being aware of the fact that fur beings, feather beings, fin beings and skin beings are being subjected to terrible and horrible pain and terror and misery...for the most selfish and disgusting and trivial of reasons. Because human beings want to do those things.
I struggle too, with interacting with other humans...because almost all of the people I love, almost all of the people I like and almost all of the people I know...are participating in this ongoing murderous, injuring, harming rampage on a moment to moment basis. Oh, not directly for the most part (I do have family members that "hunt"...they directly hurt, terrorize and kill innocent ones), most of the ongoing participation is a step or two or more removed from the actual shame of the atrocities. No, they eat "dairy" or "fast food" or "bacon" or "buffalo wings", avoiding clearly covering their hands with blood or filling their ears and eyes and minds with the visions of those being killed...murdered...of hearing the shrieks and screams and moans and sighs of the dying. No, theirs is a genteel joining in, a sneaky facilitating, a devious contributing, a superficially deniable participation. But a participation nevertheless...were it not for their eating, wearing, buying and enjoying choices and purchases most (not all, but most) of the misery showered onto all those billions of lives would stop. Their thinking (or maybe their not thinking), buying and doing is the engine that drives the horror story that we human animals have made of life on this planet.
And I interact daily with these folks, and I don't scream at them and I don't grab them by the neck and choke them and demand that they see what they are doing. I don't do those things (which I sometimes want to do), but I do have nights like last night when visions creep into my thoughts and I hurt for the hurting and I suffer for the suffering and I can't go to sleep. My discomfort is obviously as nothing if viewed in relation to the burden endured by the victims...but it is mine and to continue I somehow must cope with it.
Numbing myself to my reaction to their misery is something I try to avoid. Pretending that no one gets hurt is not an option I choose to exercise. Lying to myself about this is something I don't want to do. Believing the fantasies and not noticing the omissions and distortions presented to me by popular culture via commercials and ads and recipes and essays and on and on is a degree of gullibility and willful ignorance I don't want to engage in...not anymore. I have done and did too much of that sort of stuff for too long...which is how I continued to support the unspeakable. Nope, I quit being purposively naive, I opt out.
So now I have this as one (there are many others) of the effects of opting out of those cultural fairy tales...sometimes I can't get to sleep. So be it. I really don't want to be comfortable and at ease in a world where such things go on. Being "well-adjusted" to this sort of tricked-out grotesque horror show is, as far as I can see, the mark of functioning in a disabling and demeaning and destructive manner.
Does all this staying aware make me a "good" person, does that show how "sensitive" I am? Nope, not a bit. At the most, what that does is help me see or understand the world and events a little more clearly. That's all. Get a little closer to 'reality". My notion is that the more accurately we perceive 'reality' then the better decisions we can make because the decisions are based on correct information. If we misperceive reality (and we all do to some greater or lesser degree) then that distortion is liable to show up in the decisions we make. The better the decisions we make (the more closely in tune with reality that they are) then the more likely it is that they will turn out well. Bottom line is that, for the most part, I think reality is a pretty reliable touchstone and avoiding reality is something that should be minimized.
Every culture teaches its children how to avoid reality, how to fantasize, how to see things, how to do things, how to conceptualize things. That's part of what culture does. But cultures aren't infallible, they are made up...cultures are fantasies in one manner of speaking. And they can be pretty good at helping life or mediocre or poor at doing that. I grew up in a variant of the European culture that spread from that area of the world all over the western hemisphere. It has been a really 'successful' variant of culture evidenced by its spreading all over the place...but...it has been a really destructive and exploitive culture if you look at what it has done to the cultures it encountered (take a look at what Columbus did to the Native Americans) and it has been a culture that devastates environments and other animals (e.g. Passenger Pigeon). As long as it could spread after using up an environment, well, it could keep going...but now we're running out of planet...we're running out of indigenous peoples to rip off...we're running out of land to exploit...we're running out of water to waste...we're running out of trees to cut down...we're running out of being able to treat other living beings the way we do.
Occasional indulgence in fantasy or imagination is fine, necessary even, but choosing to opt for fantasy over reality on an ongoing basis is probably dangerous stuff...to me, anyway. My speculation is just that sort of willful blindness was and is a major contributer to the incredible, awful mess we European humans have made of the environment and of our relationships with our fellow animals and of our relationships with ourselves. So, time to give up some fantasies, time to get a little closer to reality, time to...but that doesn't come easy. There is a price to pay, and for me, one of those costs is some sleeplessness.
There are other symptoms and costs and if you're interested in learning more there are many online sources with information about the contagion of trauma. Psychotherapists have long known about the phenomena of "compassion fatigue" or vicarious trauma. Dealing with those who have been wounded by life, no matter what sort of being sustained the injury, extracts a price and most who have moved into a life of ethical veganism are familiar with them. They are real and they are burdensome. That's why everyone must work out ways to care for themselves emotionally...the possibility of self-injury, paralysis and ineffectualness is real and serious.
So, while I am sleepless at times, I'm not sleepless all the time...while I am sad and hurting at times, I'm not sad and hurting all the time...while I feel like weeping at times, I sometimes laugh and am silly and absurd. Nurturing myself fuels me to be able to keep pushing for the animals, to be able to volunteer for the animals, to be able to do what little I can to stop the awfulness that we human animals wreak on our sister and brother animals and on our planet. And that's a pretty good thing to try to do.