I went for a ride this past Saturday with some members of “The Guilty Party”. As we crossed County Home Road and continued north of town we came upon a carcass lying in the middle of the lane we were in. Given the size I thought it might be a pig but drawing closer one could see it was a well kept Weimaraner. The blood from the fatal injuries was red and raw against the pavement, indicating the dog had been hit and left recently. Among the group sadness was felt and expressed. Personally having the good fortune of being owned by dogs I have felt troubled for the past several days by seeing this dog, obviously someone’s pet, left to die alone in the road.
A couple of days prior we had another hit and run in the same area. This time the hit and run involved a cyclist, Joey Richey, an acquaintance who had just completed Ironman Canada. As he was riding he was struck from behind and the driver of the vehicle left him in the ditch. Fortunately passer-bys helped him and after receiving treatment for a broken shoulder and lacerations he will soon be shopping for a new helmet, repairing his bike and able to train and race again.
I find this callous attitude towards living beings appalling. Thoughts from great thinkers continue to circulate in my mind, the first from Mahatama Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” and the second from Thomas Edison, “Until we stop harming all living beings, we are still savages”.
Like Joey, I offer the person striking and leaving him the benefit of doubt; in that perhaps this individual was somehow unaware they struck another living being with their vehicle. While I don’t drive as much as I used to I think of the sound a butterfly makes as it hits the windshield of a car and how the sound snaps me back to awareness.
And I muse…how can an individual be so ‘asleep at the wheel’, detached from their awareness that the act of hitting a dog whose weight approached 90 pounds or striking a cyclist hard enough to split their helmet and send them to the hospital for several days does not snap one back to awareness, compassion and most importantly, right action?
In his address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon University David Foster Wallace touches on this detachment and of the members of our society who choose to operate on a default setting, detached from awareness, not only at the expense of themselves but at the expense of others as well.
From personal experience I realize we far too often speed along in our lives, unknowingly frustrated and frightened by the choices we have made, detached from and unaware of everything outside of, as Foster Wallace puts it, “our tiny skull sized kingdoms”. Driving, struggling with the cell phone, ketchup is spilled onto Dockers from another tasteless ‘eat and run’ McMeal as the race is on to make another meeting or commitment and then…a sound snaps one awake, returning one to awareness, sometimes sadly at the expense of another living being.
In closing I offer the quote from Roman philosopher Seneca, “Wherever there is a human being there is an opportunity for kindness”. There are times I find this practice is difficult but I have come to find when the practice of genuine and authentic kindness is shown first to ourselves we are released from the chains of frustration and fear binding and harming us, allowing the cultivation of wakefulness and awareness leading to opportun ities to share kindness and compassion with other living, sentient beings.