Thursday, November 15, 2012

2012.11.14 Eat Lou or Die?

Well, you won’t really die if you eat Lou, that is, your biological life will continue full of protein and new strength, but your spiritual life may suffer a bit.

The late Lou and his surviving team mate Bill were working farm oxen at Green Mountain Junior College in Vermont. The college has a sustainability vision which of course requires that some things die that other may live. The college made the same mistake that the biblical God made in Eden: made the forbidden fruit too attractive and told Eve and Adam in paradise a lie (they would die if they ate)— to protect them from knowing how to do evil as well as good.   

Green Mountain's farming program encouraged the students to love and befriend the farm animals —including Lou and Bill with whom the students worked to plow fields and haul heavy loads. The strong oxen duo served well for ten years. Now they were scheduled to be slaughtered for meat for the college meal program.

BUT these oxen had acquired names and become like pets to the students who protested wildly when it came time for the violence of the slaughter house for Lou. They knew Bill would follow. They knew too much.  They cared too much. They had the knowledge of good AND evil.

When you engage the human heart you invite love and compassion and then you put stops on violence, because how can anyone of sound mind and heart slaughter or harm a creature they also know and love?

Recently Lou was euthanized despite local offers of retirement care until natural death— a post-controversy compromise I assume between the high value of sustainability and the equally high but less predictable value of love. 

Is this a lesson in sustainability and its natural consequences? Or is it a call to become vegetarian? Or is it a challenge to expand the breadth of compassion and its mercies? 

Would I never again enjoy a hamburger or a juicy steak if I thought it might be Lou or Bill?  I don’t know to be candid.

But I do remember the late Benedictine monk and liturgics scholar/professor at Yale Divinity School Aidan Kavanagh’s fierce clarity when years ago he taught students that: “the holy things of the liturgy did not ‘drop from Heaven in a Glad Bag’ ” and  to remember that, “the Eucharist began in the slaughterhouse.”  

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