Friday, January 22, 2010

Lost My Train of Thought There...

First, take a look over here for an insightful, if disturbing, essay by the wonderful Rebecca Solnit about Haiti and the media coverage of the earthquake there. I also highly recommend her book on the history of walking.

There have been provocative things happening in my little world of blogs-that-I-follow. Over at Dangerous Harvests, Nathan has taken up the question of whether parents who are convert Buddhists should actively teach their children to follow Buddhism. He gives an interesting explanation of the term "indoctrination", among other things. He was provoked to write by another blogger who suggested it was most definitely wrong to do that. From the trenches of our family unit, I can say that even if I wanted to indoctrinate my children, they wouldn't have any of it anyway. They are already so secure in their ability to think for themselves that they never take what I put forward as a good idea at face value. Believe me, even things like "taking showers" or "changing your socks". If they come to Buddhism, it certainly won't be because I told them it was a nice thing.

My teacher often says that the best way to "teach" children about Buddhism or Zen is to live it yourself. Want to teach children about compassion? Be compassionate! I agree; it is as simple as that. It may not be something that you can assess on a standardized test later, but it will appear.

Then, over at Islandsweet, Shawn dropped a little provocative bomb, saying she has been considering "the hypocrisy of spinning with animal fibres" as a vegetarian, wannabe vegan. Shawn and I have been encouraging (enabling?) each other in our spinning habits for a couple of years - we have had a fast but deep friendship - but this comment really left me blinking.

I have heard of people, let's call them vegans, who eschew wearing wool just as they would leather. They consider it part of a system that is cruel to the animals. While I can wholeheartedly agree about leather - it is a by-product of the meat industry which is one of the most unconscionable blots on the face of humanity. But wool? Ok, you could make a case that ANY domesticated animal is wrong and cruel but to me, that is living in la-la land. I don't think humans are going back to hunting and gathering anytime soon. Or I guess just gathering if you are a vegan. So let's make it a given that there will be domesticated animals - animals whose sole purpose in life is to work for or entertain humans. One of these is the sheep. Sheep's fleece will grow and, if not shorn, it will become a matted, dirty mess that is more likely to do harm than good for the sheep.

My friend, blogless Janine, raises sheep, among other animals. She has told me quite a bit about her experiences learning to shear and observing other farmers in her area. Yes, some of them are not so nice to their animals, some of them use lots of drugs and chemicals on their animals, etc., but others treat their animals like an extension of their family. Even on small scale, there's a range.

In the same way, one can go to the green market and buy a chicken that has been raised with full dental coverage, as Dan likes to say, or you can go to the supermarket and buy something raised by on a factory farm that vaguely resembles chicken. Know thy farmer is probably a good idea all around.

I say all this, of course, with a big box of fleece just arrived from Louet, where I don't know my farmers. I do it because it is just too much work to buy raw fleeces and clean them for the volume that I need. A trade off. Am I contributing to the suffering of the world? My best answer is: maybe.

And further...I would add that most of the plant-based fibres like bamboo, corn fibre, etc., are so heavily processed that I really wonder how eco-friendly they are. I suspect that they, like cotton, are possibly more polluting (and cruel on a more global level) than wool.

Now, I had wanted to write something about Knitting Sprawl....but I forgot what I wanted to say.

ETA: Just want to be clear that I am completely supportive of Shawn's decisions about wool, whatever they may be. Even to write that seems a little funny to me, but I don't want anyone, least of all Shawn, to think that just because someone doesn't like wool - swooning slightly at that - I can't get along with them.


island sweet said...

hi robyn. i didn't put my "hypocrisy" comment out there to argue. it was a statement of how i feel. just as i would freely eat eggs if i had chickens, or drink milk if i had a cow - knowing that i was treating the animals well, i would have no hesitation using wool if i knew the sheep and how they were being cared for.
i'm not willing to give up wool - i'm just right now living with these questions.
ps oh - and no - my big louet order hasn't arrived yet!xxx

Nathan said...

Hi Robyn,

You hit on something I was going to add to my post later, after more reflection. Namely, that this whole indoctrination argument felt like a real disservice to the intelligence of children. The kind of stuff I see going on in Buddhist "Sunday School" could pretty easily be rejected (in the present) by any kid who wanted to do so. And I've seen kids do just that. Using the term indoctrination seemed really dramatic to me - good for getting people's attention, but nowhere near accurate in most cases.

As for wool, I think it's good for all of us to keep in mind that there' no way to escape killing and using each other in some ways. Every breath we take kills micro-organisms, and no matter what, we're killing something to eat. Some vegans are too extreme in my opinion. I'm a vegetarian who rarely drinks milk, and tries to avoid things like leather, but beyond that, I've accepted that life isn't the "pure" ideal I, or anyone else, may want it to be.

OfTroy said...

did you hear about the buddist monk who was visiting NY?

he got hungry and stopped at a hot dog cart--Looked over the menu, and said "make me one with everything"

then he handed the vendor a $10.

when no change was forthcoming he asked for it.. Only to be told, "Change comes from within"!

I know, i know, a budist monk wouldn't be eating a hot dog.. but i thought it was funny anyway!

Everything is a compromise. and where do you stop? (insects? bacteria? virus?

I am quite happy to murder (via my white blood cells!) a host of bacterial and viral invaders!