Monday, July 23, 2012

dead finch

last night a few miles from home I killed a finch.  it was slow in taking off from the center of the road and I didn't see it until the last moment; and then it hit the grill of my car and sailed up the hood and across the edge of my window like a crumpled piece of paper.  I know it was dead because the 1st chance I had I turned around and returned.  3 other finches were investigating its body and I said, "sorry" out loud as they took off, meaning to take in both them and the dead finch and the universe itself.  I picked it up.  its neck was broken and sagged like a sock but its body was still warm.  this had been alive and vital just minutes before.  now it was meat in the weeds.

I reflected, on the rest of my drive, on how I live my life in such a way that, when I do things like this, I try to make certain the consequences are final.  that if I hit an animal it's either dead or I help it (if I can--there have been few of those).  I do the same if I'm driving along and find an animal someone else has struck.  I think of myself as keeping some sort of balance to life by doing this, not in a mystical sense, but in the sense of karma.  I have a responsibility to do what I can about bad situations, especially if I'm responsible for them.

I came home and mentioned the above to my wife and then followed it with, "and I'm thinking, my life is really busy if I'm only doing this for situations I'm involved in accidentally.  I've got to wonder about the karma of people who do this sort of thing purposefully, who hurt other animals and people on purpose."  she said, "they don't care."  I said, "whether they care or not, they've got the burden of somehow paying a price for having done it."

she stopped what she was doing and gave me 1 of Those Looks.  she said, "that's a really xian statement."  I said, "well, it's not just xian, there's a lot of faiths that believe you have to balance the bad you do in life with good.  the buddhists, the jews, muslims, hindus--they've all got this balancing act you're supposed to do."  she repeated, "that's still a really xian statement."

she's right.  it's 1 of the best elements of religions, that there is a sense that what you do to others you have to  accept on yourself, like colin powell's definition of the pottery barn rule.  it's this sense of responsibility that keeps us honest as human beings, or that should keep us honest.  I don't know that there's an afterlife, and while all evidence I've seen convinces me there isn't, I think it's a part of right living to clean up after our own messes whether there's a goalkeeper or not.

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