Thursday, April 18, 2013

Atonement...

and forgiveness and redemption and such like. The first and last words seem to be very similar in meaning...making up for a bad behavior but forgiveness seems to be sort of the opposite. In other words if you are forgiven you are redeemed and there is no more push or ooch toward reparations or putting right the results of a wrong.

Thoughts about this sort of stuff persist with me, if we become vegan and are living in ways that don't do nearly as much harm to other Earthlings (as we used to do)...are we then forgiven for all the harm we've previously done? Or does our previous harm ask for us to not only refrain from current or future acts of damage but also for some repairing or making up for what we did. Maybe even some repairing or making up for what others do.

I wrote a little bit about this in a previous post. One of the folks that commented (Patty) was kind enough to point out that this repairing notion is expressed by Jewish culture as Tikkun Olam: "...means "repairing the world" (or "healing the world") which suggests humanity's shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world."

I can't return to life those beings I caused to die. None of us can (at least I haven't run across anyone like that). So I'm already in a position of having caused irreversible harm. Some doings can't be undone. I can not do them anymore...but I can't make it be as if it never happened. I owe. I owe those I've harmed and I can't really repay them...they are gone. They lived, they suffered and they died because of me and my actions and my ways of living.

Bea wrote about an instance of this sort of thing recently. It was a courageous post and it resonated strongly with me in several ways, partially because I've spent so much time around a number of Heartland Rabbit Rescue residents in the last few years so writings about bunny fur people always piques my interest. And partially because I don't know if I am brave enough to look too hard or too specifically at all the instances in my life where I hurt others because of my own foolishness or ignorance or callousness. I'm not certain I could bear doing that.

I'm still wallowing around with all this, so I don't really have any hard and fast place to stand or to be about it. I just feel that it is not enough for me live as vegan as I can. I have much to atone for, I even feel an obligation to atone for those who aren't vegan and who continue to harm. Which contributes to my low-level (usually) feeling of dismay when faced with a participant in the ongoing "breaking of the world" harmer....a non-vegan. And I don't mean that in any meddling or interfering way...I just wish others would quit hurting the Earthlings that aren't human. (Of course I don't want them to harm humans either...but that's a very different thing to me than the other....it's sort of like the difference between punching yourself in the nose versus punching somebody else in the nose).

I wish they would stop because hurting or harming others sucks and I wish they would stop because that's just that much more repairing that needs to be done.

There's another component to this that remains fuzzy and unclear to me and that is the damage we do to ourselves when we harm others. How much repairing does that call for? What kind of harm do we do to ourselves? I've been re-reading Black Like Me and some other works by John Howard Griffin recently and one of the things he struggled with was what we were doing to ourselves when we participated in and supported racism and the oppressions associated with it. What are we doing to ourselves when we support speciesism and the oppressions and harms associated with that?

I have lots more questions than I do answers, lots more un-understandings than I do understandings. That's obvious. I've found it useful to read Mr. Griffin's work and to read Ms. Hobson's works but so much more remains to comprehend and to ponder.

In the meantime...volunteering at Heartland, living vegan, helping out at Hands Helping Paws, sometime helping at Wildcare,  placing Vegan Outreach pamphlets at the library, donating money to different groups...these are some of my tiny efforts at repair. There's so much to try to make up for...so much. But...lots and lots of humans are trying to do some repairing and that's worth a smile and some good feelings.










6 comments:

Have Gone Vegan said...

When it comes to forgiveness (especially when we're trying to forgive ourselves), my feeling is that trying to make amends is in order. You're right that we can't undo, and we can't repay, but we can resolve to do better, and step up our efforts to repair when and where we can.

I'm quite fascinated by the notion that we harm ourselves as well when we participate in oppression. Trying to keep up the pretense that we're not like "them" and further justifying the artificial division by denying the brutality of our actions, really IS a form of self-harm. So basically, it could be argued that not being vegan (besides being harmful to others) is also in fact an act of self-destruction. :)

Bea Elliott said...

I can't speak for everyone... But as for me the worst kind of anger or regret comes from me. Others can blast me to the moon and back... But unless I own that guilt from within - Their criticism is ineffective. I suppose that's what's so difficult about self-atonement, self-forgiveness... Those of us who really care are often our worst critics... It's hardest to let go of the disappointment in ourselves. And maybe that's why the notion of "original sin" is so vile... It's difficult enough to bear the burden of earned guilt... But to inherit it from birth? Ouch! :/

And often I have to shake my head in disbelief when I hear someone (non-vegan) claim that advocates are making them "feel guilty". That's just not possible. Either one feels remorse (guilt) or not. There's no amount of manipulation that can cause it, unless it's deserved.

You said you're not brave enough to look too hard at instances that caused harm to others... I sure can understand that. Especially if one thinks little will be gained by doing so. But then... There's the wondering (and hope) that thinking it through, talking about it... Even "confession" of sorts might help. At least that's what I'm working towards. For me, the doing of "something more" has to come by way of judgement of my peers... Of publicly remembering the damage caused... There's a chance someone else might learn what not to do. And the "something more" is even in the likelihood that as I'm forgiven, others may forgive themselves as well. It's a slow process though... It's like paying a ticket that has no expiration date. Or worse, it's like taking a bad medicine you're not sure will cure. :/ In any case for me anyway, years of tears on a pillow sure isn't working. And both you and HGV are right... There's some things that will never be fixed - To that there's something to be said about life being temporary.

For those of us who are awake - it's so easy to spot what damage denial or "bliss" does to others who aren't. My thought is that they are only half here. Where the rest of them hides is really too dark for even a soul like mine to ponder... I can't imagine what kind of mental and emotional tricks they must do to keep themselves from thinking about what they don't want to know. It doesn't make any of us who are present and whole less pained... Just more honest. That's got to count for something - Shouldn't it?

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV and Bea.

HGV: I like your speculations re self-harm. I'm still too much up in the air re all this to be able to say much with any coherence. :-)

Bea: Wow...with your permission I'm going to postpone a response much beyond a thank you for commenting. The content richness of your comment exceeds my processing ability right now. An adequate digesting of it will take some time for me. :-)

One thing I will note though is that maybe there are some exceptions to the notion that others can't be manipulated into guilty feelings. The first thing that popped in my mind was children vs adults. I don't know that adults of equal status/power can guilt one another without cooperation but I think maybe that kids can be sucked into unfounded guilt trips by others (usually adults). What do you think?

Bea Elliott said...

Of course veganelder! Even through my rambling and digressing - I'm glad I contributed something worthy enough to mull over.

On the point of guilt and kids you're so right! How did I miss that? Sure... Parents and power figures do it all the time! Kids don't have the grounding adults have to be able to reject the idea of making someone else "feel" guilt. Hence we have the martyr parents, the humiliated parents, the disappointed parents, etc. I'm with you on this call 100%! Kids are tragic subjects shoved into closets not of their making. :(

Anonymous said...

I have only just come across your blog, and find it very encouraging and thoughtful. I have wanted to stop eating meat for a long time, and when there no others who understand your way of thinking in everyday life, blogs such as yours are most welcome in starting a new way of life we should all have been born into. So today I am beginning to a new way of eating. Thank you for your blogs, and long may they continue as they are very honest and forthright and just what we need ..!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Anonymous....and thanks for stopping your harming other animals. :-)