The Animal Too Big To Kill
Like a lot of Americans, I woke up on the morning of November 10 thinking that the world is not what I thought it was. The morning of Jan. 21 reassured many of us that maybe it is more like we thought it was, but it also made us aware that we are each required to make an effort to see that it remains bearable and habitable.
My daughter was at the march in Washington, D.C., wearing a pink “pussy” hat crocheted by a friend of mine, who ended up making about 160 more so that everyone going to the march from our college had one to wear. Even I had one, knitted by another friend of mine, to wear as I read the “blessing for the women’s march” at our local send-off.
This morning I started calling and emailing my representative and one of my senators, letting them know that I am paying attention to the issues and noting how they vote. It’s going to be daily work, and that gets difficult. It’s much like my daily work at physical therapy; I go only twice a week now, and have to do a long list of exercises on my own in between visits. It takes a lot of repetitions to build up the large muscles that support the knee, and it’s painful.
I’ve finally put my crutches back into the closet, not because I don’t still want something to lean on, especially when I have to get up in the middle of the night, but because I was tired of looking at them. The surgery wasn’t a cure, as I’d hoped. I may have to walk with a cane for the next few years. It’s very discouraging, but if I quit trying to walk, then I might not be able to walk ever again.
It sometimes seems like it would be easier to deal with a big disaster, instead of having to do the daily work. The title poem of Shane McCrae’s volume “The Animal Too Big to Kill” talks about this feeling:
Lord I have eaten and I think I won’t
anymore eat / Animals
many times my weight / In animals
enough that were they resurrected and combined
Like the heroic robot in that cartoon I somehow always missed
And always looked forward to as a child
Lord they would be an animal / Finally too big to kill
Except by You who would
Shatter the sky and hurl the burning blue whale-sized shards down to do it
Lord even though You wouldn’t have to break the sky to do it
And I accept I need to be reminded
I can’t escape responsibility
for being the kind of creature that requires signs Lord from You
Merely by now refusing to participate
in the killing of some of the sometimes instruments through which Your signs / Pass
as they pass through every creature Lord and every object You I know
Killing the animal too big to kill would be a sign
And I accept I can’t escape being grateful for Your signs
Being the kind of creature
That requires Your signs / Because You Lord have made me wondrous
Beginning with my always I imagine it to be
an ugly mush but really it’s
I think I’ve read /Harder than that
brain and the thinking it might someday do
Because Lord I might someday think
Until that day and after I require signs / Lord and I can’t escape
Being grateful for Your signs
Because my body not my brain responds to them and You I know
Killing the animal too big to kill would be a sign
Lord as I took it for a sign
When fifteen years ago I prayed to be convinced
and drove to the monastery in Mount Angel and
Two tall firs
across from each other on either side of the narrow road to the monastery
Were struck by lightning
rare Oregon lightning on a barely misting afternoon
And fell across the road and Lord I couldn’t leave
I took it for a sign and I believed
And that was when the moment when I understand the language now
The moment I was born again
The moment I believed I
Had seen God kill for me
Lord was the moment I became a human being
As You I know
killing the animal too big to kill would be a sign
We all want a sign, but after we’ve gotten one then we have to get to work and keep going, hour after hour, day after day—and if you’re like me, you can’t take too many breaks, or you’ll never get back to it.
I like the way the last poem in the volume, “The Calf,” acknowledges how hard it is to act on your convictions and keep acting on them:
Lord I have eaten and I don’t
Want to and have to
Anyway / Sometimes because I can’t afford to eat
According to my conscience animals
Lord many time my weight
in animals in the past / But since I started
eating animals again it hasn’t been that much
I’m sure it hasn’t been that much
Maybe if all the meat I’ve eaten since I started
eating animals again were piled and weighed
It would weigh as much as maybe if my leg were cut off
Below the knee the calf the shin the foot
Were laid in a scale opposite the meat
Maybe the scales would balance.
We all do many kinds of daily work, and in my experience it’s easier to do something than to refrain from doing something, especially when it comes to eating.
What most of us have to weigh when it comes to daily life is how much of the day we can stand to use up doing things we don’t enjoy but we think are good for us or good for the world. Now, as in my own too-heavy and weak-kneed life, a lot of us are going through a reassessment of that balance in order to try to help make the world what we thought it was and more of what we want it to be.
I’m going to be limping along for a while, hoping that practice will build up my muscles without too much grinding of the bones. How about you?