Sunday, October 25, 2009

In My Opinion, No. 1: Animals

It may surprise some of you, readers, but I'm deeply interested in animals. I blame my parents, who got me a subscription to Zoobooks while in my formative years when I didn't know any better. Thus began a long-lasting interest in the kingdom that is defined, according to the Smithsonian Institute's Animal, as any multicellular species that takes in food. As a food-consumer myself, I can identify with that sort. That's my kind of organism!

Resultantly, I know things one shouldn't know about animals. I know why pigeons have acclimatized so well to urban settings. I've read how certain ravens have been observed using passing cars to open hard seeds and nuts. I know that, in danger, squirrels circularly climb, simultaneously escaping danger on the ground while putting the trunk between themselves and any airborne predator. Owls' ears are on the sides of their head, while the tufts on top simply direct sound. While cheetahs are the fastest animal on land, pronghorn gazelle are the second fastest, peregrine falcons fastest in air, and sailfish fastest in water. The axolotl is a creature that even in adult form has not metamorphosed as other amphibians do (and as its DNA was designed) but can be artificially matured in a laboratory. The ancestors of gerbils come from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, while chickens hail from tropical jungles in Southeast Asia. And, yes, I have read cover-to-cover the book sitting on my shelf entitled How to Raise Milk Goats Successfully.As I've matured, the basis for my interest in animals has shifted from boyhood curiosity to firmer ground. As with so many other things in my life, I find that my spirituality influences my way of thinking. How compelling it was for me to discover that animals have spirits of their own and that some will inhabit the heavens, that they too are here to fulfill a measure of creation, and that God has commanded humankind to treat animals well. As a practicing Latter-day Saint, I am reminded every time I go to the temple how important the Earth and its lifeforms are to God. Nature is beautiful, complex, and majestic and, in my opinion, worth preserving even if we are inconvenienced in doing so.

I'm a firm believer that all lifeforms have intrinsic worth and that to take a life, directly or indirectly, animal or human, is a practice that must be held up to careful scrutiny. That being said, I'm not a vegetarian and I value human life much more than the life of, say, a cat. Even a really awesome cat. In fact, the aesthetic or utilitarian qualities of animals seldom affect the importance I place on any particular species. I kill only in self-defense or to eat. If a mosquito attacks, I fight back. I feel no guilt eating meat. But I am willing and do pay more for animal products humanely raised and slaughtered. I've even been known to go out of my way to take a nasty insect outside instead of crushing it with the nearest shoe.

But it's strange to me that so few people share my feeling. After thinking about it, I grew surprised that the Christian world in general seems so apathetic toward animal life, with little or no liturgy on the subject.

That said, might I suggest some reading material on the subject of animals/nature that might be of interest to Christians (and Mormons in particular): Genesis 1:26, 28; 9:2-5; JST Genesis 9:10-11; Deuteronomy 12:15-16; Psalms 115:16; Proverbs 12:10; Isaiah 45:18; Daniel 1:8, 12, 15; 1 Timothy 4:1, 3-4; Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-19, 21; 89:12-13; 104:13-14; Moses 7:48-49. Also, Gerald E. Jones' "The Gospel and Animals."

What especially saddens me is the extinction of an entire species. As a LDS, I know that all animal life will be resurrected so, in a way, the species is not forever lost. But is that a viable justification for causing a species to go extinct? If so, the same rationale can be used about taking other forms of life, even human. Through intentional harm, apathy, overhunting, or lack of foresight, we sometimes bar a unique group of animals from multiplying. Do we not rob them the ability to obey the law God specifically gave them in the creation?

I conclude with a Zion's Camp story, from the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith: "We crossed the Embarras [R]iver and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger" (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:71-72).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

i miss books

For almost an entire month I have not indulged in any leisure reading. My mind has not atrophied because I still read plenty of essays and short stories in order to teach my class. It's my soul that ails me these days.

I am in the middle of reading Les Miserables but it's anyone's guess when I'll have time to finish it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bucket List

A friend recently posted on her blog 100 things she wanted to do before she dies. Coincidentally, I already had made one about a year ago and thought I'd drag it out and post it. Here are the highlights of my list; skipped numbers indicate something I've left out for privacy's sake while things crossed out indicate something completed but possibly needing repeating:

1) travel to Europe, South America, East Asia
2) get married in the temple
3) become a father
4) baptize my children
6) write a book
7) publish said book
8) learn to paint
9) complete a week-long hike
10) live in a wooded area
11) sail a boat
12) plant a garden
13) learn birdwatching
14) habitually have long talks with my siblings
16) laugh every day
17) baptize a friend or neighbor
18) white-water rafting
19) build a giant sandcastle
20) learn to make old-fashioned maps
22) live with friends
23) fulfill my ward callings
24) read scriptures, pray daily
25) learn bass guitar
26) get a Ph.D
27) inspire some students
29) learn assertiveness
31) read great literature
32) eat my own home-grown food
33) recycle
34) buy a hybrid car
35) live in a foreign country (preferably Brazil, New Zealand, or Portugal)
37) donate to charities
38) visit Africa
39) own a cat, name him Maxwell
40) raise cashmere goats
41) live in the country
42) own a library
43) ride my bike weekly
44) get to the point that I can ride my bike as long as I want without exhaustion
45) learn more languages
46) become a better cook
47) help build my own house
48) remodel an old house
49) live by a lake
50) live along the Pacific northwest
51) serve another mission
53) teach college
56) do more projects with my dad
57) attend hockey games
58) publish an essay
59) plan fun dates
64) take ancestors' names to the temple
65) visit my grandparents in Canada
66) put others before myself
67) see a Broadway show
68) play sports
71) design a floorplan
72) build furniture/bookshelves
74) learn east-coast swing dance
75) start/join a book club
77) frequent the temple
78) know God
82) go on a non-typical cruise
83) climb some serious mountains
84) help save wildlife
85) dress up every Halloween
87) 200 in bowling
88) find music I like again
89) store food
91) pay off student loans
92) pay a full tithe
93) donate to the Perpetual Education Fund
94) raise chickens
95) get a new wardrobe
96) 100% home teaching
99) witness children learn to walk/talk/read
101) see Christ

ED: items in italics are things I'm currently working on.