Let’s welcome our newest blogger Fern Demeo, author of The Passion for Compassion, to the VBU! fold.
Here she is in her own words, “I’ve always found it difficult to write about or describe myself to others, after all we are such complex creatures with a vast range of strengths and insecurities! I am (obviously) an animal lover and have been my entire life. I grew up as a single child and my animals were like my siblings, except far more accepting and unconditional! I remember scolding other kids in the play ground for frying ants with magnifying glasses; catching injured birds who had flown into the classroom and trying to rehabilitate (unsuccessfully!) baby mice whose mother had been killed by the neighbour’s cat. The truth is, I found a considerable amount of solace, peace and acceptance with the animal kingdom. I was raised by my Mum taught me strength and gentleness, respect and concern for all life. Always concerned for the underdog, mum taught me to advocate for those who were voiceless and vulnerable.
When I lost my mum in 2007, life as I knew it changed forever. The grief and despair is beyond what words can describe. Part of my ongoing journey towards wholeness after losing mum has been re-aligning with my passion- to be of service to the animal kingdom in whatever way I can. This fills me with a love so deep that it begins to shine some light into the gaping hole that grief left behind.”
The other night whilst taking a few moments to enjoy the silence, I looked up and saw a gigantic Godzilla spider (ok it wasn’t that big- maybe a 50 cent piece in diameter- but for a long term arachnophobic, that IS equivalent to Godzilla). Fear filled me, adrenalin pumped through my veins and my fight or flight mechanism went into overdrive. Fleeing was seriously contemplated, though the thought of not knowing where Godzilla was lurking, forced me to confront the fear.
But then another fear came online- If I am wanting to live a truly compassionate life and extend that to all beings… what was I going to do with this fricking spider? I was terrified to get too close to it, unlike the countless creepy crawlies I capture and release outside. And in my own darkness- I ashamedly admit that I was seriously considering spraying it, despite having always hated the thought of spraying another living being (such a prolonged and agonising death). But then a sobering (and slightly unwanted in that moment) epiphany – Why does humanity seek to destroy what it is fearful of or misunderstands?
All of a sudden I was flooded with images from World War Two where nearly six million Jewish people were murdered under the Nazi dictatorship, in Hitler’s racially motivated ideology for a superior “Aryan race”. I was then transported to Cambodia where a close friend and I had walked in absolute horror through the killing fields and Tuol Sleng, a former high school which was used as a place of torture at the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Memories and images which still haunt and sicken me today.
Many other heinous historical moments –towards both mankind and the continual assault on our sentient animal relatives- rushed through me as I stood and stared at this helpless ‘Godzilla’ spider. I was deeply ashamed at my initial instinct to kill what I was afraid of, to eradicate a life which I did not fully understand. As Friedrich Nietzsche so aptly said “Man is the cruelest animal” to walk this earth.
What made me superior to this being, to sentence it to death because I was too fearful to confront my own fears and insecurities? There was only one alternative- capture it so I could set it free and in doing so, acknowledge the dark side of my own humanity.
My methodology for doing this was long, terrifying and quite honestly, ridiculously comical. Thank goodness for empty plastic containers (with opaque walls so I couldn’t see inside), thick cardboard and a dose of courage to make me look at the deeper message of this unwanted visitor. And so as I write this, I am both comforted and unsettled by the Buddha’s wise words: “It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways”. Perhaps the world would be a safer place we could all acknowledge our own darkness?
Sorry about all the weird text formatting- am trying to do too many things at once here with my zoo of crazy animals!
Thanks so much for all that you do