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It goes without saying that almost no one cares about the Iditarod, a dog sled race that begins annually on the first Saturday in March.

The Iditarod has no widespread coverage on television or the internet, a dwindling number of corporate sponsors, and is of increasingly little interest to anyone outside of those living on the thousand mile trail from Anchorage, AK to Nome, AK.

And yet this lack of concern has always extended to the dogs forced to participate. Data provided by Humane Mushing indicates that 595 dogs who finished the 2016 race showed signs of lung damage (81%), and that 488 of the finishing dogs were found to have ulcers or ulcerations (61%). These rates were consistent throughout the ten year period data was collected, for there were only two years in which the percentages varied by more than 1%. Data was not collected from sled dogs who dropped out of the race.

Every March, a smaller and smaller number of eyes look to Anchorage. This year, even their chief sponsor has abandoned the race. It has chosen to look away. But at the same time, Anchorage is used to this. For in the off months, these dogs are most often kept in outdoor kennels without insulation, without veterinary treatment, in freezing temperatures, and with rotten food.

Because it goes without saying: almost no one cares about the Iditarod.

Posted Fri 04 Mar 2022 05:13:09 PM EST Tags:

Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has drawn attention to a 2018 "crash test" study1 at Wayne State University funded by the Ford Motor Company, in which twenty-seven living pigs were strung up by wires run through the adipose tissue near their spinal columns, and rammed with a high-impact lateral pendulum.

The study appears to reverse an organizational policy set by Ford in 2009 to refrain from using live animals in collision testing.

Given the difference in organ size and growth rates between humans and pigs, the research is of limited scientific value, as mentioned in the paper resulting from the study on pg. 374. In the next breath, the authors congratulate themselves on their "powerful research."

As it stands, the report is a masterpiece of dissociative thinking, covering over the brute fact of being with all the graphs and figures at the clinicians' disposal.

Posted Sat 16 Oct 2021 12:50:00 PM EDT Tags:

The Buddha told Subhūti, “Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should pacify their minds thusly: ‘All different types of sentient beings, whether born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, or born from transformation; having form or no form; having thought, no thought, or neither thought nor no thought — I will cause them all to become liberated and enter Remainderless Nirvāṇa.’ Yet when sentient beings have been liberated without measure, without number, and to no end, truly no sentient beings have been liberated. Why? Subhūti, a bodhisattva with a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, is not a bodhisattva1.”

We prefer our own lives to those of others. We can never fully shirk this preference, for to do so would mean becoming something other than human. This is why the extreme few who have achieved this level of self-abnegation are objects of as much misunderstanding and disgust as reverence: Shakyamuni Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Arya Asanga.

As every kind act we do for another being involves some measure of self-denial, it follows that doing anything truly worthwhile with your life requires a great level of self-denial. The road to authentic self-denial2 is long and fraught with difficulty. The first stage of this process leads one to asceticism, and more importantly, the paradox at the heart of asceticism: that you must "lose your life in order to save it."

The age in which the everyday person could be expected to understand asceticism has long since passed. To them, what passes for asceticism is more often than not basic ethical behavior: abstaining from meat and intoxicants, recycling, fasting, perhaps boycotting certain conglomerates. Their understanding of self-denial never rises above the level of mere acts or practices, for what they fail to understand is the perspective that binds these practices together. For the self-denying individual, practices (ἀσκήσεις) can be the royal road to this perspective, but practices in themselves are no replacement for it.

Pursuing asceticism is not a worthwhile end in itself, even when it is practiced for the purpose of one's individual liberation. This is the path of the so-called "pratyekabuddha," the one who practices selflessness for their own selfish benefit. The criticisms of Mahayana Buddhist commentators throughout the years ring true: it is not enough to lose your own life, and it is not enough to save your own life, even if such an idea of "absolute negation" is a comforting one. You must instead negate your own life to save another life, even every life.

It's common to say that those who practice altruism and empathy are selfless. The secret to true empathy is to take this as literally as possible, and internalize it, behaving as though you had no self. You yourself are not a being; you yourself are not alive. It is only in this way that the lives of the most marginalized will become meaningful to you: the 66 billion chickens and 500 million cattle slaughtered annually; the birds colliding into communication towers; the dying coral reef. This level of detachment is a supreme gift, and one of the few worth cultivating.

At any moment, you must be ready to see through yourself to see another, and indeed, to see every other all at once. You must learn how to deaden yourself and heighten your senses in order to feel what they feel. Then, lose your life to save them.

  1. Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, emphasis added.
  2. There are many who will try to pass their self-loathing off as self-denial. Self-loathing is in fact the antithesis of self-denial. Intense self-loathing is irreparably bound together with narcissism, for the self and its perceived flaws are the depressive's sole object of attention. The difference between such a person and what the world will call a "narcissist" is not in the amount of attention they pay to themselves, but the kind. The narcissist loves the one they see in the mirror. The depressive despises them. Both spend hours looking in the same mirror.
Posted Tue 12 Oct 2021 04:26:00 PM EDT Tags: