DO NO HARM by Jim Harris
What a long strange trip it's been. The words of that popular
bumper sticker adequately describe the history of my concern for
the natural world around me. My relationships with my pets as
a young boy taught me respect for all animals. Much to my Mom's
dismay, I eventually began bringing home sick, injured and lost
animals that I would find in my daily travels. She would nurse
them until they died or got better or found their owners, occasionally
taking money from her waitress salary to get them veterinary care.
Those experiences led me to an
interest in the welfare of suffering animals everywhere. I began
joining national and international organizations, reading their
literature and doing what I could locally to help out. I couldn't
look at an animal without seeing myself. I felt we shared something
fundamental and universal, the incredible spark of life. I vowed
to do no harm, to be the cause of no creature's suffering or grief.
That was my spiritual orientation, and it influenced many of the
personal choices that I made, from the food I ate to the clothes
that I wore and the products I used.
Over the years, I came in contact
with many different types of activists, but the most significant
for me were the environmentalists. The relatively new science
of ecology has produced a body of information that is ominous
and shocking. The weather, the resources and the animals of our
planet have been put in imminent jeopardy by rampant consumerism
and thoughtless meddling with the course of nature. It is a complex,
daunting situation. Caring, informed people are working to publicize
the problems and come up with solutions, but it's sort of like
trying to put a genie back in the bottle.
I never thought of myself as
living an extravagant lifestyle, but I now realize that I am part
of the problem, and I need to find out what I can do to help change
things. It involves learning a whole new set of facts, a whole
new regimen of personal choices. Aside from making me feel extremely
tired, this brings up some conflicts with my existing philosophy.
Most notably, it takes the focus off of individuals and places
it on the the eco-system. Certain animals may be sacrificed in
the name of balance while others rise in relative importance.
That synthetic jacket that I bought may ultimately be more harmful
to the environment than a fur coat. In the passion to return the
world to some of its former beauty, a type of bio-elitism is emerging
that worships the letter of natural law but overlooks the spirit.
I'm not advocating that we trust
in technology to get us out of trouble. Getting back to nature
is a wholly proper and desirable way to go, but I am suggesting
that we are part of nature, too, and, our spiritual evolution
is important. We shouldn't let the ends justify the means. We
need a vision of the world as it can be, but we need to deal kindly
with the world, and all of its inhabitants, as it is. I never
dreamed that doing no harm could get so complicated.