Archive for October, 2016

Why I’m Vegan

Posted in Rant/ Rave, real life with tags , , , on October 30, 2016 by sethdellinger

As most of you know, I became a vegan about four months ago (and before that, a vegetarian about a year and a half ago).  This development has caused no small amount of friction between myself and some friends and loved ones, mostly due to the fact that I’ve become not only a vegan, but a vegan of the outspoken/ activist variety.  This upsets people.  I understand that.  I figured it was time I detail the philosophy for you a little bit.

Here is really where the rubber meets the road, where the rest of the philosophy comes from, and why you feel I am attacking you:

It is my firm and passionate belief that all animals on Earth are deserving of equal moral consideration.  This runs contrary to how even the most compassionate non-vegans in our culture think.  We are raised to believe that, in some way–a way that usually rests just a shade outside our ability to explain–humans exist above animals, in moral or ethical importance.  You may have said at some point in your life, “I’m sad that animals got hurt, but at least no human lives were lost“, or “Of course animal rights matter, but there are human issues that are more pressing.”  I understand why you think that way; I did too most of my life.  Our society (and in fact, most societies) raise you to think that way.  We call this way of thinking speciesism.  Frankly, I don’t love the term.  It begs to be mocked and is, perhaps, a little too precious.  But that’s the term we use and it IS accurate. (also I’ve thought about it quite a bit and can’t actually come up with a better term).  Why is it that you think humans are more important than animals?  REALLY.  WHY IS IT THAT YOU THINK THAT?

There are, of course, many reasons that get put forth to justify putting humans above animals, which I won’t take time to detail here.  Suffice it to say we find those reasons to be poppycock.  Animals feel pain and suffering, and above all, are simply not ours to own, control, kill, or consume.  They are their own.

Having established a moral compass wherein all animals are weighted the same, eating animals, or imprisoning or torturing them, is the exact equivalent to eating or torturing humans.  It bears the exact same moral weight.  Which is why it is not a “diet” and why I will not acknowledge your right to do it as “your choice”.

Picturing a world where all animals are due the same consideration, imagine now a farm.  The manner in which cows, pigs, chickens, et al–who have done nothing wrong whatsoever–are imprisoned, given a horrible, painful, short life and are then butchered: this is like we are doing it to humans.  Factory farms do this on a massive level; hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are, at any moment, wrongfully imprisoned and murdered.

Yes, we call them people.  It serves to rip further the veil we are all under, this false assumption that because animals are different from us that they are less-than, that we control and own them, that their lives are ours to take, and their suffering meaningless.  These are our ethical equals, these are people, and what we are doing is nothing less than a holocaust.

So yes, you may think it’s silly when we call them people, or when we talk about SLAVEHOLDERS, but the moral equivalency is very real.  The problem is one of urgency for the poor, doomed, imperiled people currently imprisoned all over the world.  And you want me to be silent?  You think I should “accept your choice”?  I would no sooner silently assent to you eating a human limb.  I would no sooner be quiet about American police murdering black people.  I would no sooner be silent about LGBTQ Americans not having equal rights.  I like to think, given a chance to go back in time, I could not have been silent about the Holocaust of the second world war.  I cannot and will not be silent about this holocaust.  Animal rights are human rights.

You feel personally attacked when I post a vegan meme to Facebook; I get it.  You feel judged.  I assure you I am not thinking about you specifically when I spread the message: how you feel about what you read and see is between you and the animals.  But when you engage me on the topic, I can not and will not be soft.  How could I?  Look at what is at stake!

Many in the vegan community also think we should pull back.  They say being in peoples’ faces turns them even more off of vegans and lessens our chances of growing the movement.  Except: every successful social change movement in history disagrees with you.  Stop being cowards (and suggesting I be a coward too!)–if these WERE humans being farmed, would you suggest the best way to stop it is posting “vegan gym selfies” (Look, I get plenty of protein, eat vegan!) and pinning recipes on Pinterest?  I refuse to treat animal liberation like some delicate flower because people might feel a certain way about it.  I IMPLORE THEM TO FEEL A CERTAIN WAY.

The best way to make large, lasting change is to cause friction with the status quo.  It is our goal to hold up to people the true vision of the world: the idea that what we are doing to animals is a needless atrocity.  Some “soft activism” is good, too (gym selfies, Pinterest recipes), but it’s not enough.

The world needed Martin Luther King, but it also needed Malcom X.

Badass Harrisburg, Media vs. Trump, Eraser, Alexander Supertramp

Posted in Prose, Rant/ Rave, real life, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by sethdellinger

It has now been over a year and a half since we moved to Harrisburg. Like every time I’ve made a large move, it’s been interesting how at first there is a large amount of culture shock, and then just a few weeks or months later, it’s almost like you’ve always lived there. It’s hard to imagine there was a time that I lived in Philadelphia, or Erie,  or Carlisle.  It’s hard to imagine there was a time when I actually could not imagine moving back to Central Pennsylvania. Did I ever actually move away from here? But also, the first time I lived here, I couldn’t have imagined living in Harrisburg, but now it seems the natural center of this area. Harrisburg gets a bad rap from many people, for those are people who are afraid of it, or have never spent much time in it. Granted, it is a city with its troubles, both financial and otherwise. There are plenty of areas that are downtrodden, poor, and wanting of many of the services that the surrounding areas take for granted. But there is a lot to love here, and plenty of neighborhoods that you can feel safe in, and with nice modern housing. There’s more than enough to do, more than enough beautiful views, and a vibrant arts scene. In fact, there are more things that we have not been able to do than those we have been able to do. And it seems clear to me that the city is still on the move. I know there have been lots of stories over the decades about the revitalization of Harrisburg, but this time it does seem legitimate. The independent music scene, hipster coffee shops, art galleries opening all over the place. Even a vegan coffee shop close to the state capitol building! There’s a lot to love here, and although there are certainly times when I’m riding my bike down a side street here that I miss being right in the middle of traffic on Broad Street in Philadelphia, there’s also something to be said for walking out of my job every night, looking to my right, and seeing the beautiful Capitol Dome less than a mile away, or walking my dog six blocks and being along the Susquehanna River Trail, almost always as the sun sets.

 

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The fact is, the system IS rigged against Trump, in the sense that the media (hold up; did I say the MEDIA?? You hate the media, don’t you? [I’m probably not talking to YOU here, but to about 30 people on my Facebook who bitch more about the media than the atrocities they report on}  But what is it you are talking about, when you say “the media”? It’s an institution with hundreds of thousands of outlets, platforms, and systems, and it’s actually one of the best things about our country–one of the things that really DOES keep us free. But see, you gotta do some work, too. You have to sift through some things, figure out what sources you trust, the nuances of how to best receive information from the media, and where and when you receive it. You have to READ things. Hey, quick–who’s your favorite columnist? Don’t have one? How do you HATE the media when you’ve never really consumed it to begin with? Stop being lazy. The American freedom of press truly does set us apart–and I’m not one for “American Exceptionalism”. But yeah–most of the media operates by making a profit, so be careful, and above all READ things. And it does make a difference if it’s printed on paper; it’s harder to trick your eye into only reading the “interesting” stuff or items you already agree with. Just read the news. Hating and callously dismissing “the media” is just active laziness. And memes are not the media. FYI) are not obligated to report on an aspiring despot who would end the American experiment like it was no big deal. The “media”–contrary to what many seem to think–are not obligated to be neutral observers of facts only at all times. They are to report facts, yes–but also interpret them (again, this is where understanding media nuance will serve you well: there ARE places you can go for just fact, and places you can go for opinion, and places you can go for analysis. If you go to one place expecting it to be something it isn’t, you might think it’s corrupt, when in fact you’re just a novice). So yes, the media are biased against Trump because they are reporting on a man who would destroy our nation–and harm the world. And it is not their DUTY to remain neutral. The media IS biased–but not against Trump; they’re biased against evil.

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I wasn’t ready for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, when it came out in 2006.  I was baffled by it, listened to it twice, and put it away–not knowing if it was bad or I was daft.  I put it in on a whim today and it turns out I am ready for it.

 

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Two nights ago, I got to meet Jon Krakauer, an author who is currently among America’s top 3 or 4 nonfiction authors.  I’ve admittedly only read two of Jon’s books–“Into the Wild” being his most famous book and a work that has touched my life very deeply.  In it, Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who left a very comfprtable and promising life, wandered the country with little to no money and no contact with anyone for over a year, eventually hiking into the Alaskan wilderness where he would eventually die.  Chris’s story is complex and multi-layered–it can’t be reduced to one single element.  When I was at very low points in my life–still drinking and in deep depressions–Chris’s decision to disappear and walk into the wild until he died appealed to me.  Later, sober and happy, other elements of Chris’s philosophy and his journey resonated with me.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a man he met on his sojourn across the country.  The man–who had been deeply affected by a month or so he spent with Chris–received the postcard after Chris died:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Christopher McCandless

While it was McCandless whose story has so impacted me, Krakauer’s decision to tell it, and the respect he gave the story, resonated.  In the many years since “Into the Wild” was published, Chris’s story has become of major import to a growing legion of people who find something inspiring about him, and Krakauer does not shy away from his role as a steward of the story.  It was an intense honor to meet him.

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The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The wind begins to whistle through branches now bare with late months.  The sky grays, the wind grays, everywhere color mutes, curls into itself.  Even the insects look at you with worry.

 

 

 

Baltimore, 1998

Posted in Memoir, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

I suppose there’s always a lesson to be learned, whether in a filthy dive bar or over tea in a teahouse, whether in sweaty socks in a high school gym or walking onto stage in a vaunted theater, there’s always some lesson to be gleaned, whether it is for you or against you, whether it is exactly what you want to hear or it devastates you, it is going to be there, regardless.  Take, for example, standing on the balcony level of a thumping bar in Baltimore, peering down at the crowded dance floor below, my head already swirled with gin, watching three of my friends dance in a group, turning sluringly to the young girl next to me, who I’d never met or even spoken to before, Hey!  That one down there, with the orange hat?  Do you find him attractive?  Women are always into him instead of me, and when she grimaces and turns from me wordlessly, I amble over to the balcony bar, order a double of the top-shelf stuff, and settle into a corner table alone.  Even in my youth I saw this not as a lesson in the unfairness of having friends more desirable than yourself, or being a bad dancer or lacking social graces, but as a gut-punch reality check about a path I was trodding from which I could not return.  But what else did I know as the waitress lit the candle on my round table in the dark?  What did I know about anything?

Why We All Need the Cubs to Lose the World Series

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 23, 2016 by sethdellinger

First, a few points of order:

1.  When I say “we all”, I am only talking about baseball fans.  I am under no illusion this is of significant import to the wider world.

2.  I like the Chicago Cubs.

OK, now.  Here’s where I’m at.  I know we all feel for the much-ballyhooed long-suffering Cubs fans.  It’s been over a hundred years since they won a championship.  And they have always, at least within my lifetime, been a likeable team, and how can you not like Wrigley Field?  And all the mythos around their losing streak (the “curse”, the goat, Steve Bartman, etc).  The Cubs winning a championship would be HUGE.  We have ALL grown up with that storyline in baseball–everyone alive today has grown up with that being part of their baseball experience.

I vote we keep it that way.  While I feel for the Cubs fans (but really now–they’ve had plenty to enjoy from the Bulls, Blackhawks, and even the White Sox), in the quickly-evolving world of baseball, the Cubs losing streak is too powerful of a tale to give up.  It helps to connect baseball fans within our grand narrative.  The Red Sox used to have a long losing streak, and it’s now over, and with the face of baseball inevitably changing as our culture accelerates through change, let’s not lose some of the only historic stories we have.  If the Cubs are no longer perennial losers, what do we have left???

Listen, I hear you.  You think I’m being a weird contrarian.  And maybe I am.  I like this Cubs team (but I like Cleveland’s team more).  And think about this: wouldn’t it make an excruciating but undeniably delicious chapter in the Cubs’ losing streak for them to make it to the series and lose???  To Cleveland, on the same year that entire city’s losing streak was just broken by their basketball team???  This world series, I’m rooting for intense, epic historic narrative.  Plus I saw the Cleveland baseball team play when I lived in Erie :)

Posted in Photography, Uncategorized with tags , on October 23, 2016 by sethdellinger

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Things Sweep You Up

Posted in Prose, Uncategorized with tags , on October 17, 2016 by sethdellinger

How did this happen?  How did I become thirty-eight?  How did I get chest hairs, and then bushy gray ones, and then flab all-everywhere, and a 401(k)?  How do I know about local taxes, how do I know how to drive a stick shift?  Many people say something to the effect of, no matter how old I get, inside, I always feel eighteen years old.  I know what they mean but I can’t agree entirely; inside, deep inside, I’m perpetually eight.  Helpless, dewy-eyed, flailing, wiping the eyesnot onto my pillow on sun-dappled mornings as I start to hear the first birds’ chirp through the box fan next to my bed.  How did I get from there to here?  This is an immense amount of life to happen to an eight year old boy.

Things sweep you up.  You get swept up in them.  Time isn’t what we’re told it is–it’s a gel extending in all directions.  You get moving and your momentum just carries you.  You start to age and change and the person you were becomes invisible to you–an unknowable shadow stranger.

How did I become this man?  Decades have passed since I was the first me, the child me.  I’ve known thousands of people; how much did they matter?  I’ve been countless places- were any of them real?  I drank and ate and fell in love and tipped poorly and took advantage of people and swam on perfect summer nights and refused to do things–oh have I ever refused to do things!–and I knew people that died and I sent people mail and I flew on a plane and I lied to people who loved me and I shaved my head and I bought the perfect Christmas gift and then, every now and then, every so often, I go back to the places that things happened, and I look at those places that I stood, that we stood together, and I see myself there, I see those things happening.  It’s like a double-image–the past overlaid on the place, and finally, in those moments, I simply can’t understand any of it.  How can I be here again, when I was already here?  How many times can I be here?  How old can I get?  I’m only eight, after all.

Things sweep you up, they carry you with them, but not like a stream but like a mouse running across a darkened floor and you are the cheese.  Things sweep you up and carry you, they zig and they zag, holy moly do they ever zig and zag.  When you get a moment to breathe you might look back and say, oh my, how did I get from there to here? I’m only eight.  And the answer is simple: you did not get from there to here.  You are still there, you are still here, everything is everything all at once.  I’m just energy, you are energy, this table is energy, the perfect Christmas gift is energy, my eight year old self recycling his electrons into a thirty-eight year old self, all of us unknowable to our future versions, forever and forever and forever and forever and forever and forever and forever and forever.

Posted in Snippet, Uncategorized with tags , , on October 5, 2016 by sethdellinger

“What if you slept, and what if in your sleep you dreamed, and what if in your dreams you went to a perfect garden and there you plucked a strange and beautiful flower, and what if when you awoke you had the flower in your hand?  Ah, what then?”

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1817

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