When I started Mercy For Animals nearly 20 years ago, I was a kid from the Midwest with a big dream and an unwavering determination to help animals. Building MFA was not easy. Our first meeting had three attendees. We had no money. But as we grew, I surrounded myself with incredible supporters like you, passionate volunteers, and committed colleagues.
MFA is the most meaningful endeavor of my life so far. My journey has been moving and inspiring. Working alongside such brilliant colleagues and implementing our shared vision of a kinder world for farmed animals has been an honor. Together, we have built MFA into the powerful organization it is today—one that achieves groundbreaking successes as the result of teamwork.
As MFA has grown in the past few years, I’ve found the personal and creative space to think about how I can best continue to shape our movement—and help more animals. This space led me to launch Circle V, the first vegan animal rights music festival, and to conceptualize and co-found The Good Food Institute, an organization that supports innovation in food and science to produce alternatives that are superior to animal products.
I’ve determined that I can be most effective right now by helping launch exciting new companies and initiatives. This means remaining in this creative, big-picture space and handing over much of the day-to-day operations at MFA to other skilled and respected leaders within the organization.
I’m proud to announce that our executive vice president, Matt Rice, has been promoted to president of MFA. I will continue to serve MFA as chair of the board of directors and will remain intimately involved in strategic decisions as the organization’s founder.
For more than 15 years, Matt Rice has been a central leader in the animal protection movement. He shares my vision for MFA and has implemented it with determination, tireless dedication, and compassion for animals and people.
Matt began in MFA’s New York office carrying out grassroots outreach before being promoted to director of operations. He later moved to Los Angeles to take over as director of investigations, working closely with our brave undercover investigators. Matt has overseen many of MFA’s biggest cases, most successful campaigns, and other victories. As executive vice president, he has overseen all departments.
Click below to watch a video about Matt and MFA’s priorities for 2018.
Matt is steadfast in his commitment to MFA. He is an ideal team player with sound judgment—a true powerhouse for animals. I trust him completely.
Matt is already working with other senior MFA leaders to implement new systems and structures, and we will launch compelling new campaigns this year. Matt is supported by a team of some of the best activists I’ve ever met.
I know that MFA will continue to break barriers and exceed expectations worldwide. Much remains to be done for animals, but we’ve proved time and again that for a movement built on love and persistence, no company is too powerful, no factory farm too big, and no government too mighty.
I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of MFA and our movement. Our greatest victories are still ahead.
Let me add that there is much information about the charity on WikiPedia, from which I quote a little:
Mercy For Animals (MFA) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies, founded in October 1999. Nathan Runkle is the group’s executive director and founder. Focusing primarily on advocacy on behalf of farmed animals, MFA runs a number of campaigns that aim to educate the public on animal protection issues and to encourage them to adopt a vegan diet. It has engaged in several undercover investigations, primarily of egg farms, and has produced television commercials showing the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms. MFA is headquartered in Los Angeles.
Anyway, I awoke yesterday morning to find an email from John. This is what John had written:
Morning Paul, hope everything is fine up there. I have a question. We rescued a dog the other day (part pit bull), lovely fellow, but needs a lot of nursing to get him back to health. Vet thinks he’s around 2 years old. I’d say closer to 1.5. We have him here, in the front of the house (keeping our animals inside and out the back), but he’s a barker. Not aggressive, but seems to enjoy “responding” to other dogs in the street barking… of which there are too many. Do you have any tricks for teaching a dog not to bark? I’ve tried putting him on a leash back on the house (to keep him from the front gate) as a sort of conditioning, but that hasn’t seemed to of worked. I bought a muzzle and put that on when he’s barking, but that hasn’t worked either. Any ideas?
Obviously I looked across at Jean, mentioned the email from John, and read it out to here wondering what would be her advice.
A very good morning in return.
I have just shared your email with Jean and she offered the following.
Namely, that he is most likely barking for attention. If you have the time then stay with him and each time he barks say “No!” firmly and when he stops give him a treat as a reward.
Jean acknowledges that this a difficult one but let’s take it one step at a time. Let us know what you do.
Want me to make it a post on the blog? Do you have a photo of him?
Best of luck!
John is full in terms of taking on rescues just now and is looking for a caring home for this lovely-looking boy; his name is Max by the way.
Here are some photographs of Max.
What a kind, loving face!
These are some photos from last Thurs, when we got him. He’s put on some weight since. He was covered in oil, and his blood test has come back: low platelets, and ticks disease. Yeah, I’ve been out with him heaps, sitting with him and spending time. He knows its wrong, but seems to react to everything and every noise. I introduced the girl dogs to him this morning, and he was great. No problem. No aggression. Didn’t stop him barking, though 🙂 Our street has some noisy dogs (bad owners), so I guess he’s having trouble responding.
He is lovely. Would love to keep him, but we’re full, and can’t afford another. Had to get him off the street, though. He was in real trouble.
PLEASE!!! Can anyone find Max a home? If finding the money to transport Max to that new home is going to be an issue then I’m sure we can ‘pass the hat around’ to resolve that challenge.
The main thing is to find Max a home!
Finally …. my apologies to a number of you who have sent in guest posts for this place. You are not forgotten but you do understand why this plea from John had to be published today!
That post in April also included a picture of a recent stray supported by the Fund. He was named Socks by Jean.
Anyway, a few days ago Dionete sent me an email that I wanted to share with you.
Hello Paul – how’s things with you & Jean & dogs? Fine, I hope.
We’ve got some news: Socks has just been neutered. We picked him up at the clinic an hour ago and took him to a temporary shelter. Unfortunately it is just for a couple of nights but at least he is safe and can recover from the grogginess tonight.
Here are the pics we’ve taken.
Thank you very much (again) for allowing it to happen.
All the very best,
Here are those photographs of Socks.
Socks has a really gentle look in those eyes. Hopefully, he will find a new loving home before too long.
Now it’s very fair to say that there wasn’t a rush of donations. It would be more accurate to say that there were no donations for several days. In fact it is only in the last twenty-four hours that the amount donated has gone from 216 to 244 Australian dollars. (The fund will be transferring those Aussie dollars across to assist John Zande and his lovely wife soon. The currency being used is because it is the sister of John’s wife who is raising the money and she lives in Australia.)
Now it would be very wrong of me to seek the reasons why not a single follower or reader of this place chose not to make a donation. But I will offer this perspective. In that Jean and I wanted to make a second donation and it has taken several days to figure out why our gift wasn’t being processed; the reason being a rather cautious (our) bank attitude to debit card payments being made overseas. So if anyone else has tried to make a donation and the system has got in the way then please do find a solution.
Because John and his wife, Dionete, are totally immersed in doing their best to help the homeless and abandoned dogs in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Here are copies of recent emails that John and Dionete have sent me over the last few days.
Morning Paul, I took a camera this morning just to show you the new boy I’m helping. Gorgeous fellow, and young. It never stops. They never stop showing up… which is something I’m sure Jean understands all too well from her work in Mexico.
Again, thank you for your help and posting the campaign.
I queried if this new boy had a name?
No name yet. Can you think of one? I found him on the corner of a street where I feed two (sometimes 3) cats every morning. G’s mum and dad used to live in that street and her dad would feed them. He loved cats, and after he died (and G’s mum moved closer to us) I’ve kept going back. It’s been over a year now that I go there every day, and despite every effort to capture them, I’ve failed. They’re quite feral, but I can’t bring myself to letting them to fend for themselves.
And these are those photos.
John then continued that same day:
Anyway, the boy showed up about 9 days ago, so on my daily run I feed and water him. G put his pictures on Facebook this morning and a girl (Luiza) responded saying she knows of another lady who’s also feeding him. I saw food there once, on day 2 I think, but none since, so I’m not sure what that’s all about. The girl who actually responded is a part of this loose Vista Verde group. I’ve never met her, but I know of her. We’re helping her as she took in a dog a few months ago that had been hit by a car and is paralysed, but, to her credit, she’s refused to give in and has him in physio (including water treadmills), which is actually showing some positive signs. That’s sort of how it all works. Here’s some pictures and video of that case. Gorgeous dog.
The boy is relatively safe where he is. He has shelter, and doesn’t appear to be in any mood to move on, which is good. If he stays put we can help. Finding a home for him is not easy, but after we can find some place as a temporary shelter we’ll get him into the vet, neutered, treated for whatever, then settled. The huge problem is, there simply aren’t any shelters we can just take him to, so we can’t get him off the street and into the vet immediately. Every shelter is over-full, and that makes rescues just that much harder. It’s not the case of simply finding a dog (or cat) and getting them to safety… which is heartbreaking. You just have to hope they stay put. A few times I’ve put a dog in the car and taken them from danger (like near a main road) and brought them up to our area where there are parks and plenty of shelter and people to help. It’s a safe place, and if they stay put we often have successes… But that takes time. But, as I said, he doesn’t seem to want to move on, and he’s starting to put on weight. He was desperately thin, but 500g of mince and a big bowl of dry food every day seems to be doing the trick.
Here’s hoping to a good ending for him.
In speaking with Jeannie about this poor dog she very quickly suggested the name of Socks. John happily went with Jean’s suggestion.
Hi Paul, just a quick update on socks. Luiza (the girl I mentioned yesterday) has found temporary shelter for Socks for one month. It’s not long, but will give us the chance to neuter him and do all necessary blood work. Finding him a home is the next hill, but I spent time with him this morning, just sitting with him, and he’s really a lovely, gentle fellow, so here’s hoping.
Socks update: His shelter home is ready today, we’ve been told. That, however, might now not be needed. Sunday I saw he now has a huge dog house on the footpath, with blankets, food and water. He wasn’t interested in the mince I brought him, so I just left some chewing treats. Same thing this morning (I’ve just gotten back). So, we’ll go back later today just to speak (again) to the people in the street (we don’t know who exactly put the dog house there), and it might be the case that he just goes straight to the vet for neutering, maybe a few days in the shelter for recovery, then back to his house while (if still needed) we look for a permanent home/family.
Hello Paul – I can see you’ve been playing “email tennis” with the gofundme staff – good to read they (finally) managed to sort it out.
We saw Socks today. Apparently a bunch of neighbours got together to feed and take care of him, albeit on the street (he was given a 2nd-hand doghouse & doona (oops, duvet)). One of the guys has been thinking of taking him to his country house; an acquaintance of mine knows of somebody who might adopt him. Yes, everything’s still in the air, but he has it much much better than other dogs we’ve found and helped.
Now we can book his neutering/vaccine.
As for me, I don’t have enough words to thank you & Jean. Truth to be told it feels a bit weird to be the beneficiary of a campaign. We’ve always helped others and suddenly seeing ourselves in this position is a tad uncomfortable, actually – which doesn’t mean this money is not welcome, considering all the cases we’ve had so far this year.
Fingers crossed it all works out for Socks. We’ll keep you posted.
So, good people, this is why I beseech you to please support what John, Dionete and his close group are doing on behalf of those dogs down in Brazil. Please make a donation!
(And, please, make a note of my final remark at the end of today’s post.)
Those who are regular visitors to this place will know that John Zande, who lives in Brazil, is a good friend, and, for that matter, I try to be a good friend of his place. (If you didn’t read my recent review of John’s latest book On The Problem of Good then it is here.)
So when a couple of days ago I received the following email from John you can imagine my positive response to his request.
Paul, hi, I have a favour to ask.
My wife’s sister, Dee (who lives in Australia) has started a gofundme campaign to help cover a rash of vet surgery bills we’ve had recently. These past few months (most of summer, really) has been appalling with the number of dumped animals in our area.
Together with a few other people in our loose group we rescued about ten and got them adopted out to good homes. Plus, we have three in temporary shelters as we nurse them back to health. We took one into our house, Nina, thus making eleven here now, who had her tail amputated last Tuesday. We were fortunate in that our vet worked for free (a 3hr operation) and only charged us for the anesthetist.
We’re lucky to have these wonderful people around, but we’re a tad snowed under right now with the accumulated surgeries and medicines, which is why Dee started this little campaign.
Now there was no question that Jean and I wanted to help. Not only by making a modest donation ourselves but by promoting Dee’s campaign. I emailed a reply to John saying just that.
John then responded with more details, including some photographs:
Dee is married to a very good friend of mine from Uni. She started this campaign to help Dionete, my wife, and I (and if possible a few other Vista Verde folk who’re in our rescue network) here in Brazil. Dee was here just before Christmas and saw the problem first hand. She actually helped us rescue a wonderful little fellow, Terrorista, who now lives a few streets away with a wonderful family.
I didn’t know, but Dionete was chatting to her a week or two ago and it came up just how many vet/surgery/medicine expenses we’d accumulated over the summer. Without either of us knowing, she, Dee, then started this gofundme campaign to lend a hand and help clear the vet bills. We’re not an NGO (we actually help four here in Sao Jose dos Campos, two in Sao Paulo, and Sandra’s Maxmello in another city south of Sao Paulo). Because we’re not an NGO we’ve never thought about doing a campaign ourselves, so was surprised when Dee started this one. It’s quite modest, $1,000 Australian dollars (the goal) converted to Brazilian Reis will make a sizable dent in our backlog of vet surgery bills. Our bills are tiny compared to a guy we know who does have an NGO and owes his network of vets 90,000. He’s a wonderful fellow and I’m actually working with him to try and get a mobile neutering unit started here in Sao Jose dos Campos. But that’s another story. So, to be clear, the campaign is for us here in Vista Verde, which is sadly a dumping ground for animals. Surrounding districts seem to think we’re all wealthy here and therefore they can dump their animals. It’s infuriating, and the animals never stop coming.
I am sure that Jean and I aren’t the only ones that want to help.
And John could offer no better reason for seeking some financial support from the wider world. Here’s some of his later email:
My apologies if there was some confusion. I’m actually heading out right now to feed a new fellow I found a few days ago and is sleeping outside a house in another district. When I get back I’ll send some more photos, OK.
Let me close with some more photos of dogs that have been helped by John, Dionete and the rest of the great band of the Vista Verde Fund.
Please offer whatever you can to help. Even the smallest amount makes a real difference.
As is the way of the Internet and Blogging it is inevitable that connections are made in all four corners of the globe. Some connections are transient, others become long-term. The connection between author John Zande and this blog fits the latter description.
If, dear reader, you have read my posts of the last two days, then that connection between John and me will be clear.
Now despite the fact that I awarded the book five stars on Amazon I can’t tell you that it is an easy read. Nor, to that fact, is it a comfortable read.
For John’s book played around with my head in so many ways that I am still far from returning to a settled mind. Indeed, I have a sneaky suspicion that On the Problem of Good represents another one of those turnstiles in life where once through the ‘gate’ there is no returning to the past way of seeing things.
It played with my mind in the sense of forcing me, albeit with a very small ‘f’, to truly comprehend the consequences of unanticipated outcomes. You know that old saying: “Never underestimate the power of unanticipated consequences“.
Here’s an example.
In 1889 a total of 26 road deaths were recorded in the United States. By 2013 that number had exploded to approximately 35,500. Globally, the number stands at 1.24 million and the World Health Organisation predicts the body of carnage will grow to 1.9 million by 2020. (p.44)
That is just one of the many examples that John uses to support his premise that “good simply does not exist”.
But it goes deeper than that. For John reveals the incalculable, unstoppable force of evolution. Going right back to the very origins of matter. How hydrogen fused into the more complex helium that, in turn, fused into the still heavier and more complex carbon, then along came the fusing of helium and carbon to make oxygen. Then the journey of evolution of atoms. From single atoms to simple compounds, binding to produce double compounds and on to molecules. Then the marriage between molecules to produce amino acids, and on and on to proteins and enzymes and … well, you get the idea!
That continuum from simple to complex organisms and on and on to air-breathing animals (including wolves and then dogs!) and all the way to the likes of yours truly sitting in front of a modern computer writing the review of another person’s book.
All the time, since 13.82 billion years ago, the evolutionary force being a one-way street. A one-way street where John, with some degree of persuasiveness, demonstrates that everything that might, at that time, be seen as a good is not fundamentally a good because it is inextricably connected to a resulting evil.
The Problem of Good is a word problem. It is a lexical glitch, a squabble in temporal, fleshy definitions, and nothing more.
There is no disagreement or antipathy because there is no problem.
Good does not exist. (p.29)
See what I mean about this not being a comfortable book to read!
Nevertheless, you are waiting to hear from me as to whether or not you should read this book?
If you ever pause for a moment and wonder about the meaning of life, better written as The Meaning of LIFE, then this book is for you. More than that. For if you never ponder about the meaning of life then this really, really is the book for you.
Because for most of us, for most of the time, we live in the land of the blind.
So, thank goodness, that from time to time along comes a person who is the one-eyed King.
A republication of my review of John Zande’s book back in October, 2015.
More than a book review,
a whole new way of looking at you and me, and the rest of humanity.
Back on September 16th, I published the post Of paradoxes, and headaches! It included the fact that I was about 20% of the way through John Zande’s book The Owner of All Infernal Names.
On Tuesday evening of this week, I finished the book and, without doubt, I shall be publishing a review on Amazon books by the end of the week. First, I wanted to share a longer reflection of Zande’s book with all of you dear readers.
One of the many five-star reviews of this book that has been published on the relevant Amazon page opens simply: “This is a beautifully written, terribly uncomfortable book to read.” I couldn’t better that summary. This is, indeed, a beautifully written book. Yet it is also a book that will forever change the way you think about species: Homo sapiens.
Zande offers a powerful argument that, “Following then the Principle of Sufficient Reason, the observer concludes with a level of argued certainty that a Creator must exist.” Then sets out to demonstrate that this Creator, far from being an expression of universal love, is fundamentally an expression of universal suffering. Reminding the reader that, “This world was never good. It was never peaceful, and never without suffering.”
For the first time in my life, Zande’s words had cause for me to reflect on something that, hitherto, had never dawned on me. That if there is a God, why have I, and countless others, assumed that this God be necessarily benevolent. The evidence presented in Zande’s book is comprehensive: that there was an evil origin to the universe and, more directly, that the deep, and growing, suffering of the pinnacle of evolution, us humans, can be traced back to that evil origin. Better than that, frequently the book is almost scientific. And in the best of scientific traditions, Zande adopts the position of a neutral witness.
Whether or not you are relaxed about that previous paragraph, and I suspect many readers will not, it is impossible not to be in awe of the beauty, the power, and the eloquence of Zande’s words. Take this opening paragraph of Zande’s chapter titled A SIGHTLESS CREATION.
It is a basal vagary, a question that screams for attention and if left unresolved – if left problematic – could invalidate all practicalities of a functioning Creation lorded by a maximally wicked Creator: Would sentient, attentive, self-respecting life choose to live in a world underwritten by evil? Could self-aware life endure a thoroughly hopeless reality?
Whether one is a believer in a religious god or not, it will also be impossible not to have one’s deepest emotions and beliefs about the nature of humankind stirred very deeply around. No-one who reads this book will be left unchanged.
If you have ever pondered about the way the world is heading, or more accurately put, about the way that we humans are managing our existence on Planet Earth, then you need to read this book. Period!
So my review of John Zande’s latest book is being published tomorrow.
I have just finished reading John’s recently published book On the Problem of Good. I am writing a review of the book that, fingers crossed, I will publish on Friday. But many of you that are recent converts to this blog (you poor, lost souls!) will not remember my review of John’s first book and my reaction to that book when I was only just into it.
So, for both today and tomorrow I am republishing two blog posts. Today, one that was originally published on the 16th September, 2015, and tomorrow the post that was first published on 1st October, 2015.
Of paradoxes, and headaches!
The interconnectedness of everything – even beyond our wildest imagination.
A while ago John Zande signed up to follow Learning from Dogs. Naturally, I went across to John’s blog to thank him. There I discovered that John is an animal lover and an author. For he states, referring to his book, that, “BUY IT. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO ANIMAL RESCUE AND SHELTER IN BRAZIL”. Fabulous!
(I did buy the book, am about 20% through it and finding it very stimulating, – if you would like to buy it then click the image of the book on John’s home page.)
Anyway, a few days later we watched the BBC Horizon programme on multiple universes. Here’s how the BBC introduced the programme:
Which Universe Are We In?
Horizon, 2014-2015 Episode 17 of 19
Imagine a world where dinosaurs still walk the earth. A world where the Germans won World War II and you are president of the United States. Imagine a world where the laws of physics no longer apply and where infinite copies of you are playing out every storyline of your life.
It sounds like a plot stolen straight from Hollywood, but far from it. This is the multiverse.
Until very recently the whole idea of the multiverse was dismissed as a fantasy, but now this strangest of ideas is at the cutting edge of science.
And for a growing number of scientists, the multiverse is the only way we will ever truly make sense of the world we are in.
Horizon asks the question: Do multiple universes exist? And if so, which one are we actually in?
Horizon is always great to watch but this episode was incredibly stimulating and interesting. Later, in a exchange of comments to one of John’s posts, where I referred to that programme, John wrote:
The mulitverse is actually the more reasonable explanation for why there is something, and although I don’t understand the maths, the people who do say its simplistically beautiful. Matt Rave is an associate professor of physics and comments here regularly. He has a great book on it all, Why is There Anything?
That lead me to purchasing Matthew Rave’s book that, likewise, is a most fascinating and unusual approach to this topic. His Amazon author’s page reveals that, “Dr. Matthew Rave is an assistant professor of physics at Western Carolina University, in the mountains of North Carolina. His research interests include interpretations of quantum mechanics, the geometric phase, solid state physics, and physics education.” Matthew Rave’s blogsite is here.
Matthew Rave’s book further illustrates the paradox, to my mind, that comes from thinking about why are we here, are we here and, if so, how do we know we are here?
So if that isn’t enough for you and me, then very recently The Conversation blogsite published the following from Geraint Lewis who is Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Sydney. It is republished here within the terms of The Conversation. Did I mention paradoxes and headaches!
To a human, the universe might seem like a very inhospitable place. In the vacuum of space, you would rapidly suffocate, while on the surface of a star you would be burnt to a crisp. As far as we know, all life is confined to a sliver of an atmosphere surrounding the rocky planet we inhabit.
But while the origin of life on Earth remains mysterious, there are bigger questions to answer. Namely: why do the laws of physics permit any life at all?
Hang on, the laws of physics? Surely they are a universal given and life just gets on with it?
But remember that the universe is built of fundamental pieces, particles and forces, which are the building blocks of everything we see around us. And we simply don’t know why these pieces have the properties they do.
There are many observational facts about our universe, such as electrons weighing almost nothing, while some of their quark cousins are thousands of times more massive. And gravity being incredibly weak compared to the immense forces that hold atomic nuclei together.
Why is our universe built this way? We just don’t know.
But what if…?
This means we can ask “what if” questions. What if the electron was massive and quarks were fleeting? What if electromagnetism was stronger than the nuclear strong force? If so, what would that universe be like?
Let’s consider carbon, an element forged in the hearts of massive stars, and an element essential to life as we know it.
Initial calculations of such stellar furnaces showed that they were apparently inefficient in making carbon. Then the British astronomer Fred Hoyle realised the carbon nucleus possesses a special property, a resonance, that enhanced the efficiency.
But if the strength of the strong nuclear force was only fractionally different, it would wipe out this property and leave the universe relatively devoid of carbon – and, thus, life.
The story doesn’t end there. Once carbon is made, it is ripe to be transmuted into heavier elements, particularly oxygen. It turns out that oxygen, due to the strength of the strong nuclear force, lacks the particular resonance properties that enhanced the efficiency of carbon creation.
This prevents all of the carbon being quickly consumed. The specific strength of the strong force has thus resulted in a universe with an almost equal mix of carbon and oxygen, a bonus for life on Earth.
Death of a universe
This is but a single example. We can play “what if” games with the properties of all of the fundamental bits of the universe. With each change we can ask, “What would the universe be like?”
The answers are quite stark. Straying just a little from the convivial conditions that we experience in our universe typically leads to a sterile cosmos.
This might be a bland universe, without the complexity required to store and process the information central to life. Or a universe that expands too quickly for matter to condense into stars, galaxies and planets. Or one that completely re-collapses again in a matter of moments after being born. Any complex life would be impossible!
The questions do not end there. In our universe, we live with the comfort of a certain mix of space and time, and a seemingly understandable mathematical framework that underpins science as we know it. Why is the universe so predictable and understandable? Would we be able to ask such a question if it wasn’t?
Our universe appears to balance on a knife-edge of stability. But why?
One of a multiverse
To some, science will simply fix it all. Perhaps, if we discover the “Theory of Everything”, uniting quantum mechanics with Einstein’s relativity, all of the relative masses and strengths of the fundamental pieces will be absolutely defined, with no mysteries remaining. To others, this is little more than wishful thinking.
Some seek solace in a creator, an omnipotent being that finely-tuned the properties of the universe to allow us to be here. But the move from the scientific into the supernatural leaves many uncomfortable.
There is, however, another possible solution, one guided by the murky and confused musings at the edge of science. Super-strings or M-theory (or whatever these will evolve into) suggest that the fundamental properties of the universe are not unique, but are somehow chosen by some cosmic roll of the dice when it was born.
This gives us a possible explanation of the seemingly special properties of the universe in which we live.
We are not the only universe, but just one in a semi-infinite sea of universes, each with their own peculiar set of physical properties, laws and particles, lifetimes and ultimately mathematical frameworks. As we have seen, the vast majority of these other universes in the overall multiverse are dead and sterile.
They only way we can exist to ask the question “why are we here?” is that we happen to find ourselves in a universe conducive to our very existence. In any other universe, we simply wouldn’t be around to wonder why we didn’t exist.
If the multiverse picture is correct, we have to accept that the fundamental properties of the universe were ultimately dished out in a game of cosmic roulette, a spin of the wheel that we appear to have won.
Let me give way to Hariod Brawn and part of an extensive comment she left back then:
John Zande is most certainly one of the most thoughtful, perceptive, well-informed and sharp-witted bloggers I have ever come across, and I wish him well with his book, which by the way, appears so far to have been met only with a deluge of 5-star reviews on Amazon. I daresay that you and I will both lengthen that list.
She’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space, mostly sits on her perch or in her ceramic nest all day. She moves around slowly. If you are really gentle, she lets you pick her up.
We sit by the pond together in the morning, before everyone else gets up.
Last Thursday, I answered a friend’s call on Facebook for someone to take this chicken. Isabella and I drove to my friend’s house in the South Valley, put her in a bin, and brought her home. I didn’t think she’d actually still be alive today.
My friend had posted this story Thursday morning:
The neighbor gave us fresh chickens last night for cooking up. He shot them in the head with gun and handed them over the fence. We bagged them and put in freezer for today. Evan gets home, opens freezer and one bird is perched fully alive, very cold, and pissed off.
Chase ensues… !! We now have a blind undead chicken in our yard.
Anybody want it?
I’m not sure why anyone would shoot chickens in the head.
But when I read the story, I couldn’t help but admire this chicken’s tenacity. She is courageous. She made her way out of a plastic bag inside a freezer and survived for thirty-six hours. After being shot in the head. I figured any animal that fought that hard to live deserved a little help, if only for a day or two.
The chicken hasn’t made any effort to eat like a normal chicken. Because, of course, she can’t see where to peck. (There isn’t much point in force-feeding a blind chicken.) But she does drink, so I’ve started blending up borrowed chicken food and water and giving her that. She seems content, grooming herself sometimes, showing no signs of pain or anxiety. And still, she will die.
But until then, we will enjoy each of her borrowed mornings by the pond, the sound of birds and running water, the sun on her feathers, expecting nothing.
I’m not sure why I have a blind, undead chicken in my studio. But here is one of my favorite poems, by Laura Gilpin.
The Two-Headed Calf
Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual.
Now if you think that was remarkable then let me share what Laura posted a few weeks later, linked to via her Epilogue above.
The Miracle of Re-Birth
by Laura Bruzzese, July 11th, 2013
Good news: it’s been three weeks since the attempted murder of Rufina, and she continues to dwell among the living!
After loads of eye care, foot washing, antibiotics, food and vitamins, she has gained weight and is learning to find food and water by herself. Her remaining eye looks normal again but is still blind (I was hoping for a miracle), and the place of its former pair seems to have reached its majority in terms of healing–no eye, but no skin, either. Just a weird, green spot surrounded by red skin that looks not unlike a tiny sun-dried tomato.
But that does not prevent her daily forays into the garden where she walks around with her head craned forward to “feel” where she’s going, and from exhibiting other persisting chicken qualities that seem to evidence a contented life.
I’m still surprised, and slightly in awe of this traumatized chicken who is satisfied to reside indefinitely on my studio porch. Shiny, happy chicken.
And so far, Velma the Rascally Whippet has not been the nuisance I was afraid she might be, but instead, a proud example of a bird-dog in defiance of her own natural instincts (save for one minor incident involving a tail feather. That was still attached to Rufina.). Perhaps Velma knows they are kindred spirits, she herself having survived a scary encounter with the Great Beyond earlier this year.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed free chicken advice, food, ER and vet consults, and even a couple of adorable, surprise chicks* (!) to keep Rufina company.
*Chicks will unfortunately be dispatched to some other venue because they are exploiting their sighted advantage: stealing food out of Rufina’s mouth, crowding the water dish, and mocking her by constantly blinking and sticking their tongues out. Also, they are filthy little creatures that walk in their own poop and then jump on me.
And finally, what’s in a name? When it became clear that chicken might live, I thought I should name her, and Rufina was the first thing that popped into my head. A few days later, I googled it to see what came up. This is what I found on Wiki:
Saints Justa and Rufina (Ruffina) (Spanish: Santa Justa y Santa Rufina) are venerated as martyrs. They are said to have been martyred at Hispalis (Seville) during the 3rd century.
Their legend states that they were sisters and natives of Seville who made fine earthenware pottery for a living, with which they supported themselves and many of the city’s poor. Justa was born in 268 AD, Rufina in 270 AD, of a poor but pious Christian family. During a pagan festival, they refused to sell their wares for use in these celebrations. In anger, locals broke all of their dishes and pots. Justina and Rufina retaliated by smashing an image of Venus.
The city’s prefect, Diogenianus, ordered them to be imprisoned. Failing to convince them to renounce their faith, he had them tortured on the rack and with iron hooks. This method also having failed, they were imprisoned, where they suffered from hunger and thirst.
They were then asked to walk barefoot to the Sierra Morena; when this did not break their resolve, they were imprisoned without water or food. Justa died first. Her body, thrown into a well, was later recovered by the bishop Sabinus. Diogenianus believed that the death of Justa would break the resolve of Rufina. However, Rufina refused to renounce her faith and was thus thrown to the lions. The lion in the amphitheatre, however, refused to attack Rufina, remaining as docile as a house cat. Infuriated, Diogenianus had Rufina strangled or beheaded and her body burned. Her body was also recovered by Sabinus and buried alongside her sister in 287 AD.
Just another name? Perhaps. Or: a dark-haired Spaniard and a Italian-New Mexican, two Christian potters separated by centuries, a saint, a chicken, and an ordinary human united in an extraordinary coincidence of the undead.
Well I can’t but John Zande can.
For he was the first to leave a comment to Laura’s Rebirth post:
Here, i feel this song is in order. Listen carefully to the words, and who is singing them.