Thorns

acacia
Acacia
John William Lewin (1770 – 1819)

 

The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.

John Muir  (April 21, 1838 – December 24, 1914)

 

 

Which Sides Are You On

Portrait of Benjamin Lay
William Williams, Sr. (1727 – 1791)

 

by Marcus Rediker

It was September 1738, and Benjamin Lay had walked 20 miles, subsisting on “acorns and peaches,” to reach the Quakers’ Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beneath his overcoat he wore a military uniform and a sword — both anathema to Quaker teachings.

He also carried a hollowed-out book with a secret compartment, into which he had tucked a tied-off animal bladder filled with bright red pokeberry juice.

When it was Lay’s turn to speak, he rose to address the Quakers, many of whom had grown rich and bought African slaves.

He was a dwarf, barely four feet tall, with a hunched back, but from his small body came a thunderous voice.

God, he intoned, respects all people equally, be they rich or poor, man or woman, white or black.

Throwing his overcoat aside, he spoke his prophecy: “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.” He raised the book above his head and plunged the sword through it, and the “blood” gushed down his arm.

Lay did not resist when his fellow Quakers threw him out of the building. He knew he would be disowned by his beloved community for his performance, but he had made his point. As long as Quakers owned slaves, he would use his body and his words to disrupt their hypocritical routines.

Lay’s methods made people talk about him, his ideas, the nature of Quakerism and Christianity, and, most of all, slavery.

According to Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the name of this “celebrated Christian philosopher” became “familiar to every man, woman and to nearly every child, in Pennsylvania.”

Lay was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature.

He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa.,   ate only fruits and vegetables — “the innocent fruits of the earth” —          and championed animal rights.

He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.

Today Benjamin Lay is largely forgotten, for essentially two reasons.

The first is that he did not fit the dominant, long-told story about the history of the abolitionist movement. Formerly a common sailor, he was not one of the so-called gentleman saints like William Wilberforce, an aristocratic leader of the abolition movement in Britain. He was wild and confrontational, militant and uncompromising.

A second reason is that he has long been considered deformed in both body and mind. As a little person and as a man thought eccentric at best and more commonly deranged or insane, he was ridiculed and dismissed, even among Quakers who were ostensibly committed to an ideal of spiritual equality. The condescension continued in subsequent accounts of his life.

Yet Lay predicted that for Quakers and for America, slave-keeping would be a long, destructive burden.  He wrote that it “will be as the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps, in the end.”

The poison and the venom have had long lives indeed, as we still live with the consequences of slavery: prejudice, poverty, structural inequality and premature death.

Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act.

He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?

Slowly, over a quarter-century, his relentless agitation changed hearts and minds.

In 1758 a friend arrived at his cave to inform him that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting had finally taken the first big step toward abolition, ruling that those who traded in slaves would henceforth be disciplined and perhaps driven from the community. Lay fell silent for a few reverential moments, then rose from his chair, praised God and announced, “I can now die in peace.”

He died a year later, an outsider to the Quaker community he loved, but a moral giant of a man.

By boycotting slave-produced commodities, Lay pioneered the politics of consumption and initiated a tactic that would become central to the ultimate success of abolitionism in the 19th century, and one that still motivates global movements against abuses like sweatshops today.

In his time Lay may have been the most radical person on the planet. He helps us to understand what was politically and morally possible in the first half of the 18th century — and what may be possible now.

It is more than we think.

 

Marcus Rediker, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of the forthcoming “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist,” from which this essay was adapted.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/sunday/youll-never-be-as-radical-as-this-18th-century-quaker-dwarf.html?referer=

 

All the Strange Hours

deer-mori-sosenMori Sosen  (1747 – 1821)

 

I am treading deeper and deeper into leaves and silence. I see more faces watching, non-human faces.
Ironically, I who profess no religion find the whole of my life a religious pilgrimage.

Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

 

The Animal That Therefore I Am

young barn owl elisabeth frinkYoung Barn Owl, Dame Elisabeth Jean Frink (1930 – 1993)

 

To put all living things that aren’t human into one category is, first of all, a stupid gesture – theoretically ridiculous – and partakes in the very real violence that humans exercise towards animals.

Confined within this catch-all concept, within this vast encampment of the animal,
in this general singular, within the strict enclosure of this definite article (‘the Animal’ and not ‘animals’), as in a virgin forest, a zoo, a hunting or fishing ground, a paddock or an abattoir, a space of domestication,
are all the living things that man does not recognize as his fellows, his neighbors, or his brothers.
And that is so in spite of the infinite space that separates the lizard from the dog, the protozoon from the dolphin, the shark from the lamb, the parrot from the chimpanzee, the camel from the eagle, the squirrel from the tiger, the elephant from the cat, the ant from the silkworm, or the hedgehog from the echidna.

The confusion of all nonhuman living things within the general and common category of the animal is not simply a sin against rigorous thinking, vigilance, lucidity, or empirical authority, it is also a crime.


Jackie Élie Derrida (1930 – 2004)
(Jacques Derrida)

 


–Thanks to Kieran Suckling for bringing this work of Derrida to my attention–

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/action/alerts/

 

The Word Calling Forth the World

giottoGiotto di Bondone (1266 – 1337)

 

Jubilate Agno, Fragment

For TEA is a blessed plant and of excellent virtue. God give the Physicians more skill and honesty!

For nutmeg is exceeding wholesome and cherishing, neither does it hurt the liver.

For The Lightning before death is God’s illumination in the spirit for preparation and for warning.

For Lavender Cotton is exceeding good for the teeth. God be gracious to Windsmore.

For the Fern is exceeding good and pleasant to rub the teeth.

For a strong preparation of Mandragora is good for the gout.

For the Bark was a communication from God and is sovereign.

For the method of curing an ague by terror is exaction.

For Exaction is the most accursed of all things, because it brought the Lord to the cross, his betrayers and murderers being such from their exaction.

For an Ague is the terror of the body, when the blessing of God is withheld for a season.

For benevolence is the best remedy in the first place and the bark in the second.

For, when the nation is at war, it is better to abstain from the punishment of criminals especially, every act of human vengeance being a check to the grace of God.

For the letter ל [Hebrew character lamed] which signifies GOD by himself is on the fibre of some leaf in every Tree.

For ל is the grain of the human heart and on the network of the skin.

For ל is in the veins of all stones both precious and common.

For ל is upon every hair both of man and beast.

For ל is in the grain of wood.

For ל is in the ore of all metals.

For ל is on the scales of all fish.

For ל is on the petals of all flowers.

For ל is upon on all shells.

For ל is in the constituent particles of air.

For ל is on the mite of the earth.

For ל is in the water yea in every drop.

For ל is in the incomprehensible ingredients of fire.

For ל is in the stars the sun and in the Moon.

For ל is upon the Sapphire Vault.

For the doubling of flowers is the improvement of the gardners talent.

For the flowers are great blessings.

For the Lord made a Nosegay in the meadow with his disciples and preached upon the lily.

For the angels of God took it out of his hand and carried it to the Height.

For a man cannot have publick spirit, who is void of private benevolence.

For there is no Height in which there are not flowers.

For flowers have great virtues for all the senses.

For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.

For the flowers have their angels even the words of God’s Creation.

For the warp and woof of flowers are worked by perpetual moving spirits.

For flowers are good both for the living and the dead.

For there is a language of flowers.

For there is a sound reasoning upon all flowers.

For elegant phrases are nothing but flowers.

For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.

For flowers are medicinal.

For flowers are musical in ocular harmony.

For the right names of flowers are yet in heaven. God make gard’ners better nomenclators.

For the Poorman’s nosegay is an introduction to a Prince.


Christopher Smart (1722 – 1771)

Kindness to Creatures

G Walter HarrisGeorge Walter Harris (1835–1912)

Several years ago, culinary ethnographer Eve Jochnowitz came across a Yiddish vegetarian cookbook from 1938. The book was written by Fania Lewando, a restaurant owner in what was then Poland (it’s now in Lithuania).

“She says it has long been established by the leading medical authorities that the vegetarian diet is the most healthful for the human organism,” Jochnowitz translates. “And then, in the second sentence, she says … our Jewish tradition upholds the principle of tza’ar baalei chaim — kindness to God’s creatures.”
There’s also an exploration of all sorts of dishes and ingredients, like Jerusalem artichokes and chanterelle mushrooms, or red wine soup and radish jam.
Jochnowitz argues about Lewando’s recipes: They’re more than just a historical document of that era. First of all, they’re delicious. But more than that, they capture a Jewish practice that continues to this day — of looking to the spirit of the times, or your own internal compass, and making that a part of tradition. And that can happen in a vegetarian restaurant in Poland in the 1930s or in an American kitchen this Passover.

Jochnowitz says the underlying striving for an ethical, healthy future was very much part of the zeitgeist in the years just before World War II.
“I think there’s very much a feeling that one is really just on the brink, the threshold of a great new world,”
Lewando didn’t survive the war, and neither did those hopes for the future.

Лев Никола́евич Толсто́й

readerA Man seated reading at a Table in a Lofty Room
Rembrandt or follower,  about 1628 – 30

 

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken

Count Lev Nikolayevitch Tolstoy (9 September [O.S. 28 August] 1828 – 20 November [O.S. 7 November] 1910]

 

 

Creature

hedgehog detail

The soul is the same in all living creatures although the body of each is different

Hippocrates (c. 460 – c. 370 BC)

 

Father’s Day

Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity

Horace Mann

Published in: on June 14, 2014 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Adam Names the Animals In the Garden of Eden

adam naming animals in garden - saveryRoelandt Savery  (1576 – 1639)

Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the divine charity nourish man —
. . . .  that spirit, that is, the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us —-

Ralph Waldo 
Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)