DAY 196: A (slightly late) HALF YEAR REVIEW – part 1
Its (a little over) 6 months since I started this year-long project and I want to report on how things are going.
Have I helped any animals? What have I learnt? Do you even care?
1. HOW MUCH HAVE I REALLY HELPED?
According to my own statistics… (as Robert Mugabe said when counting his votes)… I have so far saved…
12 dogs, 10 fish, 3 birds (9 rescued and 6 killed, oops), 255 snails and slugs.
(for a detailed breakdown click here)
It doesn’t sound like much. A man in China may have eaten this last month.
But it IS positive and does prove that individually you can make a difference.
Or does it?
Everywhere I go I need the access, the help, and not least, the inspiration of others. People like Charl and Trevor et all. And, of course, all the money raised has come from YOU. (thank you)
Unless you are administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to a polar bear on an empty ice floe its almost impossible to help without the help of others. We’re all interconnected. A butterfly flaps his wings in Hackney and a Big Mac collapses in Beijing
The central premise of this book, then – how many animals can ONE man help in one year – is kind of screwed.
BUT, paradoxically, the central premise of this book still stands. Precariously, but gloriously, like a tower made of Jell-o.
We must INDIVIDUALLY go out and help so that TOGETHER things might get better. And if that sounds obvious then so be it. With others’ help I’ve helped and that feels wonderful – like a big group hug.
2. WHAT’S THE BIGGEST LESSON I HAVE LEARNT?
It’s this: that it’s vital touch upon suffering. Strange as it sounds. We must expose ourselves to the problem.
When you see a dog getting hit by a car you instinctively help. When you hear the whines from the next door street you stop to listen. When you read about it in the local papers you turn the page and eat some bacon.
In the West it’s easy to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of animal suffering by distance and duvets. Out of sight, out of heart. In some ways the avoidance of suffering is
But this can have it’s own painful consequences.
It is terrifying the speed at which, on returning to England I retreat back into comfort and then the fridge and then emails and then a sort of moral standby mode.
We calcify in everyday air.
Conversely, when I’ve been confronted by the suffering of a puppy out in India or the death of a deer in Sussex it’s truly horrifying but it’s also motivating – life swings a great big foot in my butt and says: do what’s important. Help.
If you care about something then the key requirement seems to be this: only connect. The rest will follow.
3. HAS HELPING CHANGED ME AS A PERSON?
I’m financially poorer.
But am I emotionally richer?
To my surprise I don’t feel a build up of horror or outrage (as much as I have felt those things). Instead, the sadness has led to some sort of softening. It’s not fireworks but I feel a shift.
For a start I have a greater sense of alignment with the world (like the alcoholic who finally admits there’s a problem it feels weirdly helpful to face the issue of animal welfare straight in the eye). I have also become incrementally kinder to others and not just animals ( I actually help old people in the street rather than being amazed by their swollen ankles) and most vitally I feel more love for myself.
I spent a number of years doing a Buddhist practice that involved telling myself I was loveable. I found it impossible. After three years I gave up
I don’t think I’m a bad person at all but I seem to suffer from that strangely common affliction in the West where we think that loving yourself is akin to masturbating in the bushes.
Last month I did the self-love practice again and a strange thing happened: I dissolved into tears. As I wept, I felt a tiny rush of love run through me. Perhaps it was my breakfast repeating on me but just perhaps, perhaps, it was because giving out something gives you back something.
It does beg the question though – am I doing this year for me or for the animals?
Both, I think.