I know everyone is feeling it, but I just have to say: it’s fucking hot outside. I’ve spent most of my weekend in my bedroom with the window air conditining on high. The dogs are in here with me. I moved the pigs to the basement, which is the coolest room in the house (outside of my air-conditioned bedroom). I would bring them in here, but I turn off the air when I leave, so it gets just as hot in here as it is in the rest of the house (85 degrees the last I checked)—too hot for them to be up here. I’ve started training for a half marathon with a group of women here in Vermont. Today was our long run (4 miles). Let’s just say, the heat nearly destroyed my will to live.
Yesterday was eventful! I finally made it over to Albany for a Vegan Lady Gang event. We tabled at Babe Fest, described as “an inclusive, intersectional feminist celebration of women and non-men of the Capital Region and all the awesome things they’re doing.” This was the first time I got to meet Kimberly, who is quite active in the vegan movement in Albany, creating this chapter of the Vegan Lady Gang (I’m kicking around the idea of starting one in Vermont), hosting Cubes of Truth protests and other events. She was terrific. I’m a sort of supporting activist, rather than leading activist. I will carry signs, hand out information, etc., but I’m not the best person to debate with someone who wants to debate. (There is an activist named Earthling Ed who is a MASTER street debater…calm, cool, collected and with every factoid at his fingertips…it’s great fun watching him.) Most of the people who came to talk to us were already vegans, or vegetarians leaning toward veganism. There were a couple of older guys who came up to chat, one wanting to talk about how eating more veggies and beans had helped him lose weight/get diabetes under control, though he wasn’t vegan. He threw out a couple of arguments as to why he ate fish or meat and listening to Kimberly respond was really insightful in terms of the information she provided and her tone, which never changed, really. She was quite friendly. Another guy had never heard of veganism and one of the other volunteers started a conversation with him. The oddest moment was a guy who came up to the table and said, “I like lamb.” “Lambs are great,” I said. “I like them, too. They’re cute.” Then he named some other type of meat he liked. Then he said, plants feel pain. When Kimberly said, they don’t have the same kind of nervous system that animals have to feel pain, he said, they have a different nervous system. [insert my raised eyebrow here.] He was just throwing out these random one liners, without arguing really. But not wanting to listen either. Kimberly told him she wasn’t going to argue with him. He started looking at the information pamphlets on our table and took a small stack of the ones about animal rights that had a close-up of a gorilla’s face on the cover. The next thing we see, he’s inside the building, handing out the pamphlets to people. One of the event organizers came out and asked us who he was. Kimberly told him the story of how he came to us. “Well, he’s in there handing out pamphlets now, so maybe you changed his mind.” So bizarre and amusing.
I like the idea of creating a Vermont chapter of the Vegan Lady Gang, but I’m not sure how much interest there would be in this area. I guess it doesn’t hurt to send out feelers. But creating the group made me think more about my activism/volunteer work in general. Is the Vegan Lady Gang the best use of my efforts in this region, or is there something else I should be doing? There is a lot of poverty in this area; maybe I should be looking for organizations to help with that? Maybe I should be looking for ways to help the elderly more? By making home visits or volunteering at local nursing homes? I feel like there is so much need and I’m doing so little.
On the drive to Manchester this morning, I caught the last 10 minutes of On Being with Krista Tippett. I really enjoy that show and the conversations about spirituality, religion, love, art, and being human…what it means to be human (subscribe to the podcast!). Today she and her guests were speaking about MLK and some of his writings. They got to the quote “I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.” The group was talking about love as action, not emotional love, and how you put love into action. Some would say the protests that happened over the weekend, demanding that families be reunited, is love in action, but how do you refrain from the anger/hatred that spurs these protests? I feel like I’m filled with anger frequently over the political situation in this country. I’ve described my feelings toward 45 in very unkind terms and I’ve justified it because the things he says and the things he does are so infuriating, classless, unkind. How do I keep myself from being swallowed up by that anger? Better yet, how do I practice loving kindness toward those who stir within me such anger? Can I? Do I have it within me?
There is much talk about the new Fred Rogers documentary (which I’m heading out to see shortly). How he was a total radical for his time because he practiced loving kindness…he embodied it really. When he died, I remember reading this glorious essay from a writer who said he ran into Fred Rogers one day in Pittsburgh, when the writer was having a particularly difficult time in life. The ran into each other on the campus where the writer was attending school. Parts of the essay are below:
As we stepped into the lobby, I hovered for a moment, building my courage as they parted company. (And with him, how could you not wait and be polite?) Then finally…
“Mr. Rogers…I don’t mean to bother you. But I just wanted to say thanks.”
He smiled patiently. I imagine this sort of thing happened to hime about every 10 feet. Then he said: “Did you grow up as one of my television neighbors?” I felt like crying. Yeah. I did. I was his neighbor.
He opened his arms, lifting his satchel in the air, and beckoning me in: “It’s good to see you again, neighbor.”
I got to hug Mr. Rogers, y’all!
Then he opened the student union door and said goodbye. That’s when I blurted in a kind of rambling gush that I’d stumbled on the show again recently, at a time when I truly needed it. He listened there in the doorway. When I ran out of words, I just said, “So…thanks for that. Again.”
Mr. Rogers nodded. He looked down, and let the door close again. He undid his scarf and motioned to the window, where he sat down on the ledge.
This is what set Mr. Rogers apart. No one else would’ve done this. No one.
He said, “Do you want to tell me what was upsetting you?”
At the end, I just said thank you again ––for about the 13th time. And I apologized if I made him late for wherever he was headed. Mr. Rogers just smiled, and said in his slow, gentle voice: “Sometimes you’re right where you need to be.”
How do you become that patient and thoughtful and generous? There are people who embody this quality (the Dalai Lama is another). How do you keep your feet and heart firmly planted in kindness when all (political) hell is happening around you? When you can’t help but be angry about political policies that hurt people. About people hurting people.