has been an activity that has been with me a long long time and has brought me much...in many many ways. I read...often...and a lot. I read lots of "mind candy", fiction books without much import nor insight or wisdom in them. Not that fiction can't contain all those things...and the best fiction does...it's just that light reading is what I do before sleeping and I try diligently to sleep pretty much every day.
The field I worked in (psychology and counseling) demanded lots of reading and over the decades I read many articles and books related to that and then when I eased over into teaching computer programming that required tons of reading in a brand new subject area...in addition to keeping up with whatever was going on in psychology. Fiction served as a break from academic writing and it has been something that continues to be a constant source of mild (and sometimes profound) pleasure. For instance, one of the absolute best writers living today is a fellow named J. M. Coetzee...if you want to see fiction illustrating truths...you would have a hard time finding better than his work. (especially his book Elizabeth Costello)
Then came veganism. Ouch. I say ouch because snapping into seeing and comprehending and understanding the world without the crutch of human exceptionalism...or at least trying to divest myself of the distortions and stupidities engendered by this fantasy...has really played havoc with my reading. I alluded to this recently and I'm touching on it again because it seems to be so dreadfully ubiquitous.
I seem to be stumbling into writing semi-regularly about not what I've read...but about what I didn't read and why I didn't read it...sort of a guide to being un-read (as opposed to well-read) and reasons for cultivating such a status. Hmmm.....
I recently obtained a copy of a book called "How Animals Grieve" by Barbara J. King. I was looking forward to reading this and jumped into it as soon as it arrived. By page 5 I started feeling some unease when I read: "The terms "chicken intelligence" and "chicken personality" struck me as oxymoronic, not reasonable descriptions of chicken reality." Now granted, I am/was as immersed in the delusion of human exceptionalism as anyone but undergraduate and graduate studies taught me, quite clearly, that "intelligence" was obviously a relative thing (as well as a human created concept) and that no living organism on this planet existed that didn't possess "intelligence"...yet here is this highly educated person writing that she didn't think chickens possessed intelligence. That might be ok for an uneducated human animal to think...but not someone with a Ph.D.
I kept on reading but page 7 produced this bit: "In writing about animal bereavement, I walk a line stretched taut between two poles. The first is this wish to recognize the emotional lives of other animals. The other is my need to honor human uniqueness." I added the underlining. I stopped reading soon thereafter. When I read that underlined phrase I flashed back on the book title...and thought...she isn't writing a book about the grieving of animals who don't happen to be human...she's writing a book driven by a need to honor human "uniqueness" and she's going to reference grief from the other living beings to do so. I appreciate her honesty and I wonder whether she grasps just how honest a statement that was.
And so I stopped reading. At this point I'm not really interested in reading (with some exceptions) supposedly serious and non-fiction material about living beings that starts off from such a profoundly biased position. I'm just not. To me that would be very similar to reading a book supposedly about human females and their characteristics from an avowed male chauvinist or reading a book about African Americans from an openly racist author. What little accurate information that would or might be presented in those instances would be immersed in and drenched by the ugliness of prejudice and bias surrounding it.
I just don't have the stomach right now to wade around in, what now seems to me to be, silliness masquerading as seriousness. This author may have much to say that is valuable or necessary or interesting...I don't know...I'm not making that kind of judgement. Others may enjoy her work(s) and her observations but I just don't want to subject myself to it. It's too disturbing and sad-making to me...that might change in the future but right now that's just now where I am.
It seems disrespectful and somehow nasty to title a book "How Animals Grieve" and then write that she "needs to honor human uniqueness". I'll give her points for honesty in that statement but I suspicion that the honesty was inadvertent. A better title might have been "The Uniqueness of Humans, as Shown by the Grief of All Other Animals". (she also flunked the index test)
And believe me...our sister and brother animals have a lot to feel grief about as a result of the silly and sad "uniqueness" we ascribe to ourselves. Drop some of your bigger delusions, go vegan, and do your best to quit giving others reason to grieve.