Monday, October 18, 2010

Tis the Season (of death and heartache)

One of the things that marks a person as belonging to a modern faith is having modern concerns.

What counts as a modern concern?

Premarital sex? Back in the fabled Puritan beginnings of the United States some towns had more than 90% of their children get pregnant before marriage. The modern US tends to do a lot better than that these days. Premarital sex is clearly not a modern concern. In fact, I don't consider premarital sex a concern at all, but then this probably doesn't surprise any of my readers.

Homosexuality? This is even less of a modern concern, being that some of our nearest genetic relatives also engage in homosexual acts it seems this is something that actually predates humanity. Don't believe me? Check out some of the antics of the bonobos. Check your local zoo to see if they have them, though be warned that a lot of zoos do not have bonobos as they embarrass the zoo patrons.

Automobiles are clearly a modern concern. Some might say that all of the common well-established religions predate the automobile.

Now, this week, I'm not going somewhere weird here. This has nothing to do with whether or not cars have souls or deities. This is just the modern phenomena of driving vehicles about.

I got a driver's license specifically because I knew driving would be required living where I do. This is the case for an unfortunate vast part of the US. I was in my mid-twenties before I got my license.

This is to say, by the time I got my license, I had done a lot of work on myself. I had become the sort of person that was prone to crying both when sad as well as when happy. I think of it as being tender-hearted.

Now, my family got together (as they continue to do) several times in the fall and winter. I always had a nice quiet drive for much of the way, but what struck me was always how much roadkill I passed. It pulled and tugged on my heart to the point where at times I would be risking my ability to see the road, due to the tears.

I had to do something about it. So I prepared to pray to the dead. It is heart-breaking to see the dead. Sometimes you'll see a friend or family member to the corpse, walk up, as if to ask if the animal is alright. While I prayed, I wept. I wept for the dead, left beside the road to rot or to be gathered up to be discarded like any other detritus. No one gains with roadkill. It isn't part of some grand circle of life, with everyone eating someone else. It is a life, cut short and abandoned, to feed nothing but bacteria.

Now, I'm not a vegetarian. I understand that animals eat other animals, and you can bet most of the roadkill (except, alas for some of the poor pets) know this quite well. It's a world filled with the hunt, prey and hunters abound. This is, after all, normal and natural when it comes to the natural world. Those we kill with our cars are not part of this natural cycle. They are not killed for food, they're not even killed for pleasure. We take nothing from them but their lives. We give back nothing but pain and loss.

My compromise -- since I can't quit driving -- is to acknowledge the dead as I pass them. I say "Bless its soul." I say this anytime I see anything that could be roadkill. I say this sometimes when I think I see trash or leaves. I say this when there are animals too close to the street -- bless them and protect them so they don't wind up as more corpses on our roads.

I'm freer than perhaps I need to be with my blessings. In truth, I do this so I don't need to look closely. I've seen what I thought was a leaf in the road (that I blessed -- and avoided hitting) turn out to be a live animal. It is enough to know that it has been blessed, if I don't see it clearly then perhaps I am lucky.

How many people talk about peace and love and nature without acknowledging the pain and heartache we bring in our wake?

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