html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Because I don't want to dehydrate through my skin on heartless impermeable concrete.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Because I don't want to dehydrate through my skin on heartless impermeable concrete.

It is raining, which means I don’t want to ride around on my fender-less bike. I do love walking in the rain, although not more than I love walking in general. Walking in the rain, however, is a slow process. I have to stop and put all the live worms back on the grass, and that can make me late.

The reason I have to put all the live worms back on the grass is that I believe that when you die, you re-live all the deaths you caused during your lifetime. It is a fairly strict doctrine, including both proximal neglect and but-for causation. You get some slack, though, because you only re-live those deaths at the level of awareness of the thing you killed. The deaths re-play back to back, from least traumatic to most traumatic. So I figure you spend a day or so smacking into windshields, then writhing in insect killer, and then it gets worse.

That’s why I never have to nag meat-eaters. They don’t need to be scolded now; they’ll find out later what the costs were. I figure I’ll be swooping ‘round the Bardo, being a dragonfly or a cumulus cloud or a sunwarmed granite outcropping, for days before the meat-eaters show up, all haggard and worn. I’ll show them the good parts then, maybe a beach where they can be phosphorescent plankton and fluoresce in warm gentle surf, and recover from some very rough deaths.

33 Comments:

Blogger Capella said...

Five years ago I didn't go with my best friend to study at Perkins because I had in-office work to do that I thought, at least for a few hours, was more important than hearing again about her boyfriend's fight with his mother. She walked there instead - it was only half a mile from her apartment, but this was at night - and got hit by a car while crossing the street. I figure I'll spend most of eternity reliving that one. If your model is correct, and if I'm purely selfish, I should kill as many insects as I can in order to postpone that.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Oh sugar. You had no causal agency in your best friend's death. Choosing a branching path for entirely different reasons does not implicate you if chance interrupted her different path.

Honey, you did nothing wrong and you owe the universe nothing for that one.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous bill said...

My belief system tells me that if I throw salt over my left shoulder while eating a steak, all will be forgiven.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Phew! That was a close call for you.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous yoyo said...

I believe i'm coming back as Kali.

5:30 PM  
Anonymous redfoxtailshrub said...

So often, all I can think of to say after I read something here is "I really liked this." Then it doesn't generally seem interesting enough to say, so I don't say anything. But, you know, I really liked this.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Redfoxtailshrub:
Really? Thank you.

Yoyo:
That doesn't surprise me, shug.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous mith said...

Does this mean that vegans will spend a large part of their afterlife having their skin, limbs, and head torn off, stored on a shelf for a couple hours, then suffer being chopped, boiled, baked, sauteed, and/or eaten alive?

When I think back over all of the paper I've used in my life, I shudder to think what this model predicts for my own afterlife.

--mith

6:40 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Mith,

Nope. It doesn't apply to plants.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the millions of insects that have to die so they won't eat your plants? How about all the small animals that live in the fields that are killed by heavy farming equipment? And the fish killed by pesticides running off into rivers?

Justin

7:26 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

What about the millions of insects that have to die so they won't eat your plants? How about all the small animals that live in the fields that are killed by heavy farming equipment? And the fish killed by pesticides running off into rivers?

You're thinking of some other girl, the one who eats conventional produce. Hippies pick my produce and gently brush the aphids off.

And you shouldn't be concerning yourself with my entry into the afterlife. I carry spiders outside the house on pieces of paper. But-for causation starts a little closer to home for lots of y'all.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I generally have the same policy. I don't kill things without cause when I can avoid it. I just leave the spiders alone, they're not bothering me. If my g/f finds one, then I put him outside.

Other insects I just leave alone. And, obviously, as the animals get bigger, the more effort it would require from me to kill, which makes it far less likely.

Of course, I'm all for eating meat. And I say every cow/chicken/sheep/pig/fish/whatever I've eaten was asking for it.

Anyway, I don't count it as a wrong to kill an animal for food, it's the way nature works.

Justin

7:45 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

See you in the Bardo, hon.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous mith said...

"I carry spiders outside the house on pieces of paper."

I leave them in the house; they eat all the other bugs. Does this count as causation? Am I going to repeatedly have my blood sucked out to perpetuate the cycle of life?

As for not applying to plants, why not? Don't plants have feelings, too?

For those that aren't certain, I'm joking; I also don't generally kill things unless I have to.

--mith

8:50 PM  
Anonymous John Hughes said...

This post has been nominated for The Sacramento Bee's roundup of regional blogs, which appears Sunday in Forum. As part of an unofficial program, you can help decide which blog posts are included by voting at www.ipsosacto.com/bw.

The Sunday newspaper column is limited to less than 800 words. Blog posts included in the column are often cut to fit. No editing is done other than to add ellipses to indicate deleted passages. The blog's main address will appear in The Bee, and the online copy of the article will contain links to the actual blog post.

A list of the regional blogs monitored can be reviewed at www.ipsosacto.com/bloglist.

If you have questions (or you DON'T want your blog post considered for inclusion in the newspaper column), contact me at ipsosacto.com/contact.

John Hughes

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan! Fame comes calling! Everybody vote now.

I love detailed and idiosyncratic personal theologies. In my perfect world, religions would all have at most a few dozen believers, who would spend lots of time working out a theology that was subtly different from all the zillions of other little personal religions. No fighting, people would just spend lots of time explaining their theologies to each other.

Marcus

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

plants should count.

Justin

12:18 AM  
Blogger billo said...

Re-living the deaths we cause seems 'doable'; reliving the pain and suffering we cause to other people...now that's what I'd call traumatic.

I like your approach but prefer the 'Red Man's' where, after eating something, (say, some salmon) they would return something back to nature.
If there are circles that extend into the next life, then there are circles in this one as well!

As Akbar the Great said to the Hindu sages: you have convinced me *theoretically* that I shouldn't eat meat! :)

12:50 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Heh, even as a rather strict atheist with no belief in the after-life I was delighted by this post; that's why I'm glad that I'm a) too young and b) on the east coast: Megan draws you in enough that she must be trouble!

5:24 AM  
Anonymous mrh said...

What a tremendously depressing philosophy! Probably leads to very ethical behavior, but still.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

This was utterly charming, but I worry that it could be very problematic for people who are already prone to worry - what if the person tending my organic, locally grown lettuce stepped on a bug while they were gently relocating the slugs? Does that count against me? Luckily, although I worry a great deal, I'm not this bad. Yet. I'll continue to trap bugs and move them outdoors and ,paradoxically, still eat meat on occasion.

Marcus: because people who hold subtley different theological beliefs never, ever get nasty with each other?

6:02 AM  
Anonymous mith said...

I'm sure the boys will be lining up now that you're famous.

6:06 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

What a tremendously depressing philosophy!

You can still make it better.

what if the person tending my organic, locally grown lettuce stepped on a bug while they were gently relocating the slugs?

Intervening agent takes the fall. There is no but-for causation in eating that lettuce; you could have eaten while that slug was still alive. That ham sandwich, however?

Pigs are smart, too. They know what's coming.

I'm sure the boys will be lining up now that you're famous.

They didn't last time. But that's not really my priority right now.

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

"In my perfect world, religions would all have at most a few dozen believers...a theology that was subtly different from all the zillions of other little personal religions."

I believe this is the actual state of things. Most people simply don't realize it, as they label themselves "Methodist" or "Shia" or whatever and figure that's what they are. But in fact practically everybody I've ever discussed religious matters with, including the most evangelical and fundamentalist of Christians, have some quirks of understanding or interpretation that make their beliefs unique.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my usual way, I'll ignore the big picture and focus on minutia:

Why no fenders on the bike?

Back to the big picture: If you chose to ride your bike instead of walk, are you responsible for all the worms you could have saved if you had walked? Is that why you don't have fenders? Shouldn't you make sure to walk outside every time it rains, day or night?

A4

7:55 AM  
Blogger bryn said...

The implication is that carnivorous animals face the same afterlife as there is only a gradation between life forms (though there seems to be a cutoff point at plants). True/False?

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Marcus: because people who hold subtley different theological beliefs never, ever get nasty with each other?"

Well, the idea is that if there are only a few believers per religion they will all have to live together. Also, since it's my perfect world, we can assume away certain forms of nastiness, and replace them with an open-hearted and benevolent desire to learn the theologies of others and share your own. Perfect worlds are awesome, the imperfect real one is so often just a bummer.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous mith said...

"Well, the idea is that if there are only a few believers per religion they will all have to live together."

Why would they all have to live together?

1:55 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

If I decided to stop eating meat today, all the animals I would otherwise have eaten will still be killed and eaten (since I don't hunt or anything).

I also think it is completely unfair to put insects as so much more alive or aware than plants, that the death of one hurts karma and not the other. There are plants which respond to light, sound, touch, and, for lack of a better word smell. Many plants even use pheromones to warn other nearby plants that they are dying.

Also do Venus fly traps and similar plants suffer negative karma from eating insects?

10:54 PM  
Anonymous mith said...

I think rather than worrying about what we've eaten, we should be a little more concerned about all of the acts our government has carried out on our behalf using our tax dollars. It's going to be an adventure reliving that.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

If I decided to stop eating meat today, all the animals I would otherwise have eaten will still be killed and eaten (since I don't hunt or anything).

You wouldn't be contributing to market demand, though. And those deaths wouldn't be waiting for you in Purgatory.

Also do Venus fly traps and similar plants suffer negative karma from eating insects?

No. Beings without choices don't have negative karma from killing and eating. (As for plants and insects being much different, I arbitrarily choose a nervous system as the dividing line.)

we should be a little more concerned about all of the acts our government has carried out on our behalf using our tax dollars.

But again, those weren't personal choices (for nearly all of us civilians).

8:40 AM  
Blogger billo said...

But what about the cruelty we inflict on other people..isn't that more important than the death of a fly?

9:17 AM  
Blogger PG said...

Megan, have you ever read The Truth by Terry Pratchett (one of the Discworld book)? Death seems to operate the same way there, albeit only replaying the human deaths.

12:51 PM  

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