Our interactions with animals may reveal our level of compassion and humanity. How do we reconcile breeding life-forms for human consumption? What’s tolerable, acceptable murder? Flies? Mosquitoes? Ants and spiders? To view it from a mathematical perspective: Is there an inverse proportion equation imposed with regard to size and consciousness? That, the smaller the life-form, the greater our willingness to accept and rationalise its demise? How many of us lose sleep over the millions of microorganisms we annihilate each time we inhale, or take a step? And how does this compare to the emotions evoked when we witness the slaughter of a whale?
It‘s the summer of 1979. I've rented a quaint, whitewashed room on the waterfront of the Cycladic island of Ios. It’s to be a vacation of deep meditation, writing, and relaxation. The setting is perfect. Or, so I think. Dawn, after the first evening: I'm molding the pillow around my ears in an attempt to insulate myself from nature's demonic, two-legged alarm clock.
The rooming house is a thinly insulated structure elevated by cement pylons extending over the ground below. Unfathomable logic, or a twisted sense of humour, houses the chicken coop directly beneath my room. I do what any civilised city dweller would do: hiss, spit, and throw stones at the insomniac monster. Dodging my volleys, he struts about, turns his repulsive beak my way and crows on. His harem clucks its support.
"All-right, buddy," I hiss, “you want a cockfight? You got it!" Taking hold of my bird I aim and pee until all is quiet. Every morning thereafter, I get out of bed and earn myself a few extra hours of sleep on an empty bladder. But after a week, or so, I'm weary of this chore and tell Kira Katina, the landlady, that I'm moving to another rooming house. (She’s the classic widow of the Greece of my youth; perennially dressed in black from head to toe, possessing a shrill, tinnitus inducing voice that traverses kilometers, and with a mole the size of a miniature meatball near her nose from which bountiful black pubic hair sprouts like pampas grass.)
"I can't take it any more," I complain. Fearing the loss of one of her renters, she talks me into staying, assuring me that she'll take care of the problem. That night, I float on puffy dream clouds in a tranquil, soothing slumber.
Heat from the late morning sun awakens me. With a rhythmic pulse, the sea caresses the shore and welcomes me in. Natural splendour. The vacation I’ve longed for. No schedules. No telephones. No cars. No rooster. After a lazy day of swimming and sunning, I return to a smiling Kira Katina who invites me to lunch. Touched by this gesture of peasant hospitality, I graciously accept.
Entering the dining area, which is on the patio under a magnificent grapevine, I’m impressed by the bounty of the feast. There are salads, beans, freshly baked bread, tzatziki, home-made red wine, and the centerpiece: the lifeless, baked rooster. The head has been left decoratively un-plucked. Kira Katina beams as she carves the bird and loads my plate. Grease drips out of the side of my mouth when I bite into the flesh. The cock's gaze is riveted on my every chew. For a very brief moment, I feel guilty for having had the prized bird sacrificed. But this ephemeral guilt turns to nausea when I realise I'm eating meat that I've spent the last ten days marinating with my urine.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico
With a musical career spanning 45 years and with releases in styles ranging from folk to pop, to rock, to new-age, to ambient, to audio art, to documentary scoring and, finally, to children's educational music, singer-songwriter Paul Voudouris has maintained integrity and uniqueness in all of his projects. In addition to his musical output Paul, who is fluent in English, Greek, and Spanish, has taught Literature and Math in High Schools and Adult Schools in Greece, The United States, and Mexico and is a certified Feldenkrais Method® instructor, Bones For Life® Teacher, Polarity Therapist, and writer of humorous anecdotes.