An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
I've always been the kid who from time to time would shoot a bird with a BB gun and then spend the following weeks lamenting the act and trying to rid myself of images of baby birds waiting for a feeding mother who would never return. But don't rush into thinking this makes me a "touchy-feely sensitive uber-nice guy", because I am finding that generally such sensitivity arises well after the fact. Such as when I deflate my children with a tirade and realize only afterwards that I was a big grumpy jerk. And then feel awful until the time comes for the next tirade. I suppose there is a connection to the two (killing birds and losing my patience with the kids) in that my sensitivity's timing is such that I would take aim and pull the trigger (be it a BB gun or my temper) with little hesitation and only afterwards worrying about what I've done.
Today I killed the second Rooster. And while the novelty of such an act lends to it a certain "coolness", I must say that I personally take ZERO (0) pleasure in it. You know, it's funny, in talking about killing chickens with people, it is amazing how many people I talk to who will reminisce with me stories of their grandpa, grandma, mom and/or dad killing chickens. (the most common story I hear involves the method of neck wringing) And yet I cannot name anyone I personally know who has done so themselves (perhaps from my own ignorance)...but certainly I know of no one who does so now to any degree of regularity. Times have changed and I guess it's just easier to let the ugly factories and machines do our dirty work for us.
I know someone who cannot stand to hear me tell stories about butchering chickens. She's a hardcore lover of animals (spending thousands to give her dog chemotherapy once), and yet she will readily devour chicken bought at a store with their nice sterile looking packages that bear little resemblance to the bird that was until recently alive - albeit packed into feces and carcass ridden cages stacked miles high upon one another and never seeing the light of day. All attempts to nullify the horrors of my death-dealing with the fact that my birds lead a pretty good life is useless. The act of killing is too much for her to bear and while she'll reap the fruit of that ugly labor, she will not consider its reality. Speaking of fruit: She is a low hanging variety for PETA.
I understand people's apprehension toward death. We all know we live in a very sterile culture when it comes to death: we work very hard to maintain the illusion of death not really existing. And even when the illusion is shattered, it's ugliness is usually packaged up like the meat in your grocery stores. Hard words...ugly comparison, I know, but there is some truth here I believe. PETA will show people the horrors of factory farming and they are naturally sickened by it, but for folks who know AND from time to time deal in death (raisers of their own meat), the horror is more found not in the death itself or even in how it is specifically dealt out (though factory death machines often miss the mark and lead to wholly unnecessary and cruel suffering), but rather in the mindless, Orwellian, unattached, distanced, and inhuman massiveness of it all. How the animals are raised and live and then finally put to death...it is the rendering of life into nothing other than material commodity on a massive scale. Like living batteries powering the Matrix.
Looking at factory farms we say simply: "There is a better way."
In the time leading up to the roosters demise, I find myself - if not dreading - at least not looking forward to the deed. I find I get nervous and apprehensive to a degree...I don't really want to take this bird's life which I have helped to raise. Yes, I am motivated by my being awakened at odd hours and the need my family has for the meat, but this gives me no pleasure in the task, it merely fuels it by a certain necessity.
So I grab the high powered pellet gun and my miniature ultra-sharp bowie knife and head outside. I track the bird down and finally catch him...feeling bad for doing so. I grab him by his legs and carry him upside down to the eastern edge of the forest where Susan waits with a bit of rope hung from a tree. I'm not having fun. I hang him there upside down and then very quickly pass the pellet through his skull - demolishing it and then I slit his throat. Though he does flail for a little while, he's actually dead quite quickly.
And so, the deed done and my shirt covered in tiny splotches of blood, I find myself without remorse. A complete contrast to my feelings of birds killed in my youth for "sport." Then, the hardest part was the aftermath of regretting having killed the bird, now, the hardest part is taking aim. I think that is as it should be.
We should always be apprehensive about taking aim. Not only witb BB guns, but also with our temper. I think I have the former down...Lord help me with the latter.
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 10:30 PM [+] +++
Good post. While my family largely dines on store-bought meat I've made a point to remind our four children of where those drumsticks and such come from. They have all been involved in killing, plucking, and butchering chickens and turkeys (courtesy of a good friend who dabbles in poultry). Interestingly, none hesitated to eat the creatures they had just helped to process.