When dead birds fall from the sky
Originally posted in my column for The New Orleans Vegan Examiner
These times we live in are very strange. However advanced our technologies, however much credence we lend to the power our intellects, there are still mythological undercurrents to our consensual reality that our conscious minds must accommodate. Earlier this week about 500 dead red-winged blackbirds and starlings were "found scattered along a quarter-mile portion of highway in Point Coupee Parish" in Louisiana, according to the Huffington Post. This follows an earlier incident in Arkansas where close to two thousand birds of the same species fell dead from the sky.
The cause of these deaths is still mysterious, and 'authorities' think they were not due to sickness or disease. Some have speculated about fireworks and clouds of lightning. Could it be Zeus? "It's almost certainly a coincidence the events happened within days of each other," Louisiana's state wildlife veterinarian Jim LaCour said Tuesday. "I haven't found anything to link the two at this point."
The human mind is perhaps the place where LaCour should look first. We are hardwired to seek patterns in the nature of reality. When it comes to strange occurrences of mass animal deaths it isn't hard to do. Earlier this week in Gaeza, Italy, thousands of dead and dying turtle doves "were found in streets, flower beds, and hanging from trees."
Perhaps the canaries have moved from the coal mines and into the skies. Should we be alarmed? Our rational minds will take incidents like these, search for the clues to their causes, and try to sleep a little easier at night believing in scientific explanations. Others will look to the various scriptures and prophecies our cultures have accumulated throughout history and search for signs of an apocalypse.
In our oceans we have similar recent horrors to give us pause for reflection. This past week saw an "estimated 2 million fish have been reported dead from the Bay Bridge south to Tangier Sound" in Maryland, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun. ParanaOnline reports that "100 tons of sardines, croaker and catfish have washed up in Brazilian fishing towns since last Thursday. The cause of the deaths is unknown." The New Zealand Herald reports that "hundreds of dead snapper fish washed up on Coromandel Peninsula beaches, many found with their eyes missing."
"We are presently living in what conservation biologists refer to as the Holocene extinction event. This is the sixth global mass extinction event in last 439 million years. The symptoms are right here before our eyes. Bee diminishment is causing diminishment in plants dependent upon bee pollination. Army ants support 100 known and identified species from beetles to birds. Grey whales are returning to Mexican lagoons under-nourished. Shark and large predatory fish populations have been reduced to between 65 to 95 percent in our oceans. Entire fish species are in a state of rapid collapse, especially the commercially valued species like cod, wild salmon, swordfish, and tuna."
"Seventy species of South American frogs have been declared extinct in the last two decades. Thousands of species of insects are going extinct in the rainforests that have not even been discovered and classified."
"Every species removed diminishes the system and weakens the collective body of the biosphere. Humans are presently acting upon this body in the same manner as an invasive virus with the result that we are eroding the ecological immune system. A virus kills its host and that is exactly what we are doing with our planet's life support system. We are killing our host the planet Earth."
Are these mass die-offs of animals part of larger patterns of extinction? Are they signs from one god or another that some savior is about to return and take us on board their magical ship to the skies? Are we all doomed? Are we about to be saved?
There is a place where science and mysticism converge. We have a spiritual yearning inherent in our biological makeup. This yearning has been co-opted by those who have found their way into power over the ages. If our religious beliefs give us a self-righteousness that becomes the basis for our exploitation of nature then we should tear those beliefs from our hearts, because they are false. If our atheistic scientific worldview leads us to believe that there is nothing sacred and everything should be for sale, then we should denounce atheism as a moral disease.
There is a spiritual path that can encompass all of nature and science and it is the path we should all be searching for. Quantum physics has pointed to the truth that we are all connected. We are all vibrating waves of energy in a process of biological evolution. There does not need to be a god who used ancient desert tribes to transcribe 'his' words to sum up all possibilities for all ages. If there is an omniscient, omnipotent being then we are all a part of that whole and have direct access to truth. Spirituality is an evolving wave of consciousness that we are all bound together in. With open hearts and minds we can discover the path that all mystics past and future have walked, and find it to be uniquely our own.
Inevitably the cultivation of such awareness leads to an understanding that we are all connected. What we do to each other we do to ourselves. When we decide to eat animals we are part of a chain of events that leads from the grocery to the butcher to the slaughterhouse to the factory farm to the monocrops grown with pesticides that finance agricultural corporations in bed with war mongering corporations that control media corporations that control the ways in which we think. At every link in the chain we can find exploitation and suffering. Our bodies become sick from this karma, and then we pay corporations to test on animals to find 'cures' for our diseases, and they make more profit as we take their 'medicines' that toxify us further.
Today we should ask ourselves some tough questions. How do we stop these cycles that are killing us as individuals and killing the Earth systematically? What are the true meanings of these mass animal die-offs that are happening all around us? Which traditions and cultural memes are toxic to our survival? They should be tossed out. We need to realize we are not the pinnacle of evolution. We are on the verge of extinction, of which these mass die-offs are yet another sign, and it is time for us to take radical steps in our lives to save ourselves. Eating a mostly locally-grown vegan diet is one huge step we can all take. Getting around without personally-owned gas-powered vehicles is another. Having less children is yet another. May we all find the path that leads us to a compassionate and sustainable future, and walk it with reverence.