On Springing Forward. . . and Falling Behind

When I was younger and in the grip of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, I was obsessed with time. There was always too much of it before an anticipated event, like a birthday or Christmas Eve or the junior prom, too little of it during the event itself.

I wanted to control time, and I couldn’t.

When I was very young, of course, time was not that important to me. It passed very slowly. Summer vacations from school went on forever, and it was glorious. As I got older, time sped up.

This seems to be true for just about everybody as they pass from childhood to adults. When you’re very young, it doesn’t occur to you that someday you might die. As you grow older, you become more . . .and more. . .and more. . . conscious that you certainly will.

As an adult, I particularly obsessed on the semi-annual time changes from standard to daylight saving time and back again. In the fall, I was delighted to fall back to standard time and get an extra hour for the day. In spring, I mourned the loss of that same hour all day as we sprang forward to daylight saving time.

After I retired, time slowed down again. With fewer obligations, I have become less time-conscious. Today’s change to daylight saving time bothers me not at all–except for having to reset the oven, microwave, and my car.

I am one of the growing number of people, though, who think we should ditch these semi-annual time changes altogether. We don’t really need them, they mess up people’s circadian clocks, etc.

Some states are doing it already, but it needs to be nationwide. Standard or daylight, I don’t care. If you do, speak up! Contact your congressional representatives.

In the meantime, I wish you peace and joy and all the time you want.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

Speaking of Insensitive Things to Say. . . .

It seems when people we know suffer a loss or a tragedy, a lot of us have absolutely no idea what to say to bring comfort.

For example, when your beloved companion animal dies, friends with no companion animals in their lives may say, “You can get another one.”

Or my personal favorite,

“It was only a cat (dog, rabbit, ferret, parakeet, snake, whatever).”

When I hear that, I want to smash the speaker in the mouth. My companion animals are my family. How dare you diminish their importance.

When I was younger and struggling with my own undiagnosed depression, I was one of those people who did not know what to say to others suffering a loss. I was so focused on my own misery it was difficult for me to feel true empathy for the sorrows of others. I said a lot of stupid things.

Here’s another of my favorite insensitive things to say:

God will never give you anything more than you can handle.

To me, this is total bullpucky.

First, I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in a god.

Second, if I did believe in a god, I wouldn’t believe in some divine puppet master who capriciously flings down suffering on some and good fortune on others just to see how they’ll handle it.

Third, whether or not there is a god, this is a condescending and patronizing thing to say to someone in pain. It doesn’t help at all. Don’t say it.

Through the years I have learned a lot about things to say and not to say to people in times of trouble. Sometimes I still don’t know what to say. In those cases, I’ve learned the best thing to say to suffering people is nothing at all, but just to be with them.

Sit with them. Give hugs. Hold hands. Take walks together. Let your presence show you care and you’re there for them. And if they want to talk, listen. Just listen, and don’t try to talk them out of their grief with platitudes. Just be, and let your presence and time work its healing.

Thank you for reading this post, and if you like it follow my blog and you’ll get notices of new posts.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

Do Animals Have Souls, Part Two: How Can People Be So Cruel?

Kitten roasted alive in an oven.

Greyhound repeatedly thrown against a wall because it did not win a race.

Neglected horses in a pasture slowly starving with hooves so overgrown they can barely walk.

Cat beaten to death with a pole and video shown on  the internet.

Young  pitbulls used as bait to teach older pitbulls to fight.

Mother cat and kittens tied in a sack and thrown in the river.

Chihuahua dropped from the top of a multi-story parking garage by teenage boys, just to see if it would survive the fall.

Orcas kept as captive entertainers in sea parks.

Elephant kept chained in a roadside zoo.

Elderly dog left at animal shelter because family now wants a puppy.

Family cat left behind when family moves away.

These are just a few of the things people do to animals. The list could have been a lot longer. How can people be so cruel?

One reason: We don’t even agree on what constitutes animal abuse. Some would say all the things on the list are animal abuse. Some would not, arguing that elephants and orcas enjoy performing for humans, that pitbulls are born fighters, that the owner of the starving horses had grown senile or was having financial difficulties or had just forgotten about the horses.

Some might even say the most horrific abuse examples on this list are okay, because animals don’t have the intelligence, the self-awareness, and the feelings that people do, and therefore God gave man dominion over the animals to use as he wished. After all, it’s only a cat, or a dog, or a chicken, or whatever.

Whether animals have souls, as the title of this post asks, is as debatable as whether we have souls. We do know, though, that as human beings we have intelligence, self-awareness, and feelings. There is more and more evidence that animals share these same qualities with us, that there is even a bond between us, based on our shared existence on this planet Earth.

Those who don’t believe animals share our “human” qualities just may be uninformed and still guided by the stereotypes about animals they learned in childhood. They aren’t deliberately cruel to animals; they just don’t think of animals as having the same emotional wants and needs as we do.

These are the people who may accept using animals for medical testing, or raising them for food in cramped conditions on factory farms, or having them perform for humans in zoos and parks, or turning in a pet at an animal shelter because it is no longer convenient to have it in the family.

And then there are the real, true abusers. The people who get joy out of torturing, killing, and abandoning animals. They abuse animals because they are dead emotionally and because making an animal suffer at least makes them feel something.

So maybe you don’t care that much about animals, but here’s a reason you should care about their abusers: people who abuse animals may go on to abuse people–like maybe their wives and children.

My thinking on animals has evolved over time, as readers of my earlier posts Do Animals Have Souls? Part One and Who Keeps Abusers from Abusing Again? already know. My thinking evolved because of all the companion animals who have shared my life and the shelter animals I have encountered as a volunteer and the examples I have seen, heard, or read about of animal intelligence, emotion, and bonding among animals and between animals and their humans.

My newspaper earlier this year carried an especially poignant story of a mother animal feeling grief:

A female orca whale in a pod roaming the Pacific Ocean between Vancouver, B.C. and San Juan Island gave birth to a calf that was the first live birth in the pod since 2015. This calf lived only about half an hour. For 17 days the mother orca carried her dead calf with her “in an unprecedented act of mourning,” according to whale researchers following the pod.

The mother would balance the baby on her head or push it along with her nose, and retrieved it each time it began to sink in the water. This made it difficult for the mother to keep up with her pod, but she would not let her baby go. Finally, after 17 days, she did release the dead calf to sink in the ocean.

How could anyone seeing this whale mother’s behavior deny she was grieving her dead baby, just as a human mother would?

How could anyone witnessing a tortured animal howling in pain or a victim of past torture trembling in fear deny that animals suffer physically and psychologically from ill treatment, just as humans do?

At this point it is appropriate to recall the wisdom of Charles Darwin:

There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel  pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.  

Charles Darwin

I’m  with Charles Darwin. Animals and humans have too much in common for animals to be treated as commodities or objects of neglect and abuse.  All humans and all animals deserve respect.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Joy and Peace, and may you always respect and be loved by the animals in your life.

Marjorie Beck