My current novel is about Jude who, amongst other things, is a taxidermist. I wrote about this on Facebook and someone accused me of being a bad Buddhist for “showing support for the indignity of taxidermy”.
I retorted defensively that my characters aren’t Buddhist, but the comment stayed with me.
It lingered (as these things do) because it does point me towards something in myself that I feel uncomfortable about.
I have always been fascinated by stuffed animals. For a long time I wanted a fox with a bushy tail or a wiry stoat myself. Or maybe one of those new mice wearing top hats or riding a bicycle. The indignity of taxidermy. Hmm.
I am a vegan because I don’t want to contribute to animal suffering. And yet this taxidermy-part of me also exists. I wasn’t vegan for 38 years. We have three cats, and we feed them meat. I have old leather belts and take medicines that are made with animal products. And don’t even get me started on how often I use the car when I don’t need to, or forget to turn the lights off, or…..
We are all doing the best we can. This means that we are inconsistent. We get bees in our bonnets about particular ethical aspirations and we sweep over others entirely. We cause harm wherever we turn, both consciously and unconsciously.
This is okay. It’s better to have ethical aspirations. It’s better to be consistent. But it’s also better to be honest about how foolish we are than it is to pretend we’ve got it all sorted. We can peel back those layers one by one, feeling contrition, and acknowledging the whole sticky, tangled mess.
If we practice a lot, we might even start feeling fond of the mess we are. The mess that others are.
Keep going. The little changes we make do make a difference. We don’t have to become Buddhas all at once. Thank goodness.
If you enjoy these musings, you’ll probably enjoy my book ‘A Year of Questions‘, and the sequel which will be coming out later this year…
Stuffed fox by Purblind
4 thoughts on “The sticky tangled mess of living an ethical life”
I rather weirdly fancied having my old dogs stuffed and preserved in some way, as I didn’t want to let them go – fortunately hubby talked me out of it. They wouldn’t have been the same at all.
the character in my book will be doing this for a living… not so odd, I don’t think. we all want our pets to be around forever! (I do anyway)
I can’t wait for this book, I love the idea of a taxidermist as the protagonist. I too live daily with these ethical conundrums – and I personally feel it’s better for me to have these thought provoking inconsistent puzzles than live muffled up in a rather dull and unaware way. Great blog.
Thanks Francesca – and also good to know that someone is waiting for it : )
Comments are closed.