MAYA-GAIA INTRODUCTION & SITEMAP         Originated 02 20 09

Note: My maya-gaia website is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion through the lens
of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.

Mixed Messages in Evolution of Gaia Consciousness

I have just started to read Edward Abbey's 1968 Desert Solitaire that like Aldo Leopold's The Sand County Almanac 1978 is one of the classics which have contributed to raising environmental awareness- yet was shocked to read his dispassionate account of an "experiment" in which he senselessly kills a cottontail and leaves it for scavengers- not only with no apparent consciousness but with more a sense of satisfaction for having dispatched the 'wicked' rabbit. Full text of the account below (pp40-42)

Spiritual, religious or secular canons all offer a troubling confusion as to what standards should govern our moral behavior. Taking of life or abuse of living creatures composes a spectrum ranging from Buddhists notions against squashing cockroaches to Hindu's sacred cows and from Hiroshima to Islamist terrorist's genocide of innocents in the name of Allah.

Edward Abbey is respected as a postmodern Thoreau from his writings defending wildness and ecology yet in the work that raised him to an icon in the environmental movement- Desert Solitaire- he reveals a disturbing ambivalence in regards to what can only be described as a gratuitous disregard for virtually every moral compunction against wanton execution of wildlife. On pages 40-42 he presents a dispassionate account of a calculated assassination of a cottontail rabbit, left to be scavenged by other wildlife, which can only be excused in that it was an 'experiment' rather than an intentional murder.

The incident certainly raises the issue of what distinctions can be raised within the spectrum of moral standards regarding 'killing' among religions, ecospirituality, compassion, sentimentality, progressive humanism, etc.

Abbey certainly has contributed greatly to the Gaian paradigm yet there appears to be this dichotomy within even a highly developed intellectual concern for nature that Abbey embraces which allows such dispassion over what can only be described as a senseless killing.

It is entirely possible that Abbey's moral philosophy is closer to God's dispassion over nature's struggle for existence than the angst I feel for the crimes against nature I described in my confessional- My Slow Evolution to Gaian Consciousness. Could this Gaian Consciousness be merely an artifact of a kind of perverted sentimentality that arises from a psychic construct rather than from an authentic transcendent imperative? No way I say!...it may be a philosophical moral artifact but it is directly inspired by experiencing Brahman through the grace of Nirvikalpa Samadhi nudging our collective consciousness towards a more perfect alignment with an always elusive enlightenment/singularity.

Should this taint Abbey's reputation as an enlightened advocate of the Gaian paradigm? -- not in the slightest -- as the realization of enlightenment/morality as its subject- Reality- is an unending process of evolving chaos in which one cannot philosophically 'stir a flower without troubling a star'.

Skeptical Environmentalism By Robert Kirkman (Nature as Freedom p 97) In Skeptical Environmentalism, Robert Kirkman raises doubts about the speculative tendencies elaborated in environmental ethics, deep ecology, social ecology, postmodern ecology, ecofeminism, and environmental pragmatism. Drawing on skeptical principles introduced by David Hume, Kirkman takes issue with key tenets of speculative environmentalism, namely that the natural world is fundamentally relational, that humans have a moral obligation to protect the order of nature, and that understanding the relationship between nature and humankind holds the key to solving the environmental crisis.

Ecophenomenology or ecological phenomenology calls for originative thinking and an openness to the laying bare of essential elements of human experience with the world. It calls to enter, ever more deeply, into the sensorial present", and to recover the moral sense of our humanity by recovering first the moral sense of nature.

Abbey's Cottontail Episode in Desert Solitaire (pp40-42)

As I am returning to the campground and the truck I see a young cottontail jump from the brush, scamper across the trail and freeze under a second bush. The rabbit huddles there, panting, ears back, one bright eye on me.

I am taken by the notion to experiment--on the rabbitt. Suppose, I say to myself, you were out here hungry, starving, no weapon but your bare hands. What would you do? What could you do?

There are a few stones scattered along the trail. I pick up one that fits well in the hand, that seems to have the optimum feel and heft. I stare at the cottentail in the illusionary shelter under the bush. Blackbrush, I observe, the common variety, sprinkled with tightly rolled little green buds, ready to burst into bloom on short notice. Should I give the rabbit a sporting chance, that is, jump it again, try to hit it one the run? Or brain the little bastard where he is?

Notice the teminology. A sportsman is one who gives his quarry a chance to escape with its life. This is known as fair play, or sportsmanship. Animals have no sense of sportsmanship. Some like the mountain lion, are viscious--if attacked they defend themselves. Others, like the rabbit, run away, which is cowardly.

Well, I'm a scientist not a sportsman and we've got an important experiment under way here, for which the rabbit has been volunteered. I rear back and throw the stone with all I've got straight at his furry head.

To my amazement the stone flies true (as if guided by a Higher Power) and knocks the cottontail head over tin-cups, clear out from under the budding blackbush. He crumples, there's the usual gushing of blood, etc., a brief spasm, and then nor more. The wicked rabbit is dead.

For a moment I am shocked by me deed; I stare at the quiet rabbit, his glazed eyes, his blood drying in the dust. Something vital is lacking. But shock is succeeded by a mild elation. Leaving my victim to the vultures and maggots, who will appreciate him more than I could--the flesh is probably infected with tularemia--I continue my walk with a new, augmented cheerfulness which is hard to understand but unmistakable. What the rabbit has lost in energy and spirit seems added, by processes too subtle to fathom, to my own soul. I try but cannot feel any sense of guilt. I examine my soul, white as snow. Check my hands: not a trace of blood. No longer do I feel so isolated from the sparse and furtive life around me, a stranger from another world. I have entered into this one. We are kindred all of us, killer and victim, predator and prey, me and the sly coyote, the soaring buzzard, the elegant gopher snake, the trembling cottontail, the foul worms that feed on our entrails, all of them, all of us. Long live diversity, long live the earth!

Rejoicing in my innocence and power I stride down the trail beneath the elephantine forms of melting sandstone, past the stark shadows of Double Arch. The experiment was a complete success; it will never be necessary to repeat it again.

Back in the warm pickup I enjoy a well-earned sandwich and drink my coffee before driving on another six miles, through clouds of wind-driven dust and sand, to the old Turnbow Cabin and the beginning of the trail to Delicate Arch.

Update 02 22 09
Wild Words by Alicia Wells - Reflections on Abbey's 'wicked rabbit'

A Natural History of Nature Writing By Frank Stewart p200 Even though he shocks us, Abbey's rabbit-slaying narrator is not unique in the nature writing tradition.

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