breathe with the earth

Breath comes slow and easy as light begins to filter through, gently breaking up the night. Breathing yet with the earth, calm pervades, questions long released to dreams, and now forgotten. The breath comes as sure of purpose as the reaching rays of light, the unclaspable growth of all the tender, green things, the insistent push of the river.

The breath comes so sure of purpose until the myriad of little startles begin and proliferate, the alerts and notifications, the chirping of the self-holding devices somehow always there. The breath catches, its pace changes, as the chirps and tinkling bells and snippets of music begin to fill the day. Ever ready to make life easier, the beeps and vibrations assume the helm, tracking and steering breathlessly.

Breathing into the palm of the hand, eyes fail to scan the treetops, the skidding clouds, the sun pushing brightly through the blossoming catalpa, the other eyes that would speak if they could, life relentlessly unfolding and whispering away on the stream.

Without fail, night comes and pulls toward sleep. The breath falters back toward that slow rhythm, synced once again, breathing with the earth, sure of purpose as the sun reaches above the horizon.

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collared cows

Collar-free, so far

Lately I stumbled across some information about a company that makes collars for animals in agricultural operations. The solar-powered collars are used to manage the animals wearing them: everything from creating virtual fences to tracking the animal’s location and providing health information right down to when it’s coming into heat. The collars are also used to drive the animals to different locations, using auditory and sensory cues.

While all this seems to be right there on the leading edge of technology in animal agriculture, I find this application distressing. Animal agriculture is distressing to begin with, but amping the whole thing up in such simultaneously intimate and impersonal ways has very disturbing implications in my mind. Where, ultimately, does this lead?

“What we do to the animals, we do to ourselves,” writes Will Tuttle, in his book, The World Peace Diet. He describes the “boomerang effect” – the notion that “as we sow, so shall we reap.”

Tuttle carefully details numerous ways in which this plays out, demonstrating the connections between our oppressive, exploitative practices with animals and related human issues like obesity, rape culture, disease, drug use, stress, confinement, lack of privacy, and so much more. I was astonished at the parallels when I first read the book years ago, but easily saw the truth in it.

And now here we are in 2021, in our pandemic-altered world, where we have had a taste firsthand of just how easy it is for humans to be labeled, branded, herded, confined, medicated, and tracked like collared cows. The only difference is that we just voluntarily carry our devices – and pay for them – instead of wearing them around our necks. 

While technology and medicine can do awesome things, everyone should be deeply concerned about the capacity to overtly or covertly exercise impersonal control over individuals and populations in very personal ways (whether bovine or human), who it is that would presume to exercise such a capacity, and why.

I mean, just look at what happens to cows.

Despite or because of the immensely powerful scientific tools we are now capable of wielding, it is imperative we find our way forward with compassion and connection.

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