I miss hunting. There was a time when work was less pressing and it was entirely practical to announce that I’d be out of touch for the morning, sitting in the woods or up a tree with a rifle across my knees. Oh, the abdication of certain morning duties wasn’t always met with cheer and approbation, but there was a certain acceptance that hunting season was the one time of year that it was OK to go missing for half a day because, well, hunting season only comes around once a year, and no one in my house criticizes hunting.
It is likely an understatement that not all Network members are in favor of going out into nature and killing an animal to eat. After all, it has been many a decade since most Americans had to harvest wild game to avoid starvation. Today, more than preventing starvation, hunting accomplishes game management and allows humans to participate in the cycle of life with awareness. You see, we need to acknowledge the brutal fact that nature isn’t a Disney movie script. Life’s realities are more in line with Lord Alfred Tennyson’s word picture, “nature, red in tooth and claw.”
Frankly, death delivered by a skilled and conscience-driven hunter likely creates less pain and suffering than nature’s cycle of life, if the hatred some express for hunting comes from a wish to minimize suffering by animals. That’s not the larger point, though. Hunting indelibly teaches us that death is just as integral to our life cycle as conception, gestation, birth and the allotted time that follows. No matter how much we wish to ignore it, death is part of the cycle and we are better able to face all the challenges life entails if we are at peace with that eventuality.
Dystopian themes are popular in entertainment, be that books, TV or movies focusing on the end of civilization as we know it. Because I maintain sufficient resources to weather supply line disruptions, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about “what if” scenarios. Some years ago, however, I began to ask if I possessed the internal fortitude to reduce game or farm animals to edible food portions. It is one thing to say, if we’re in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, we will hunt and live on that protein supplemented by home-grown fruit and vegetables. I realized that if you have never taken apart a steer for beef or an antelope or deer for venison, the absence of even rudimentary skills would be a very real impediment. I hunted that fall, and fortuitously, after several weeks of tromping the woods after work and on weekends, a spike buck presented itself. The hunt was over, and the real work began.
The book I reviewed this month, Dan Crenshaw’s Fortitude, created a pang of regret that I haven’t had time to participate in fall hunting for several years because the woods are a wonderful place to fall into inner stillness and bring that mental state back out into the daily hustle and bustle. Crenshaw talks about cultivating inner stillness: backing off the natural emotional response to challenges and letting rational questions and explorative mental processing replace knee-jerk reactions. I strive to minimize emotional responses, so Crenshaw’s observation that inner stillness is a practiced skill resonated.
Crenshaw’s book was, to me, an echo of a book I’d read earlier this summer, Rory Miller’s Living in the Deep Brain: Connecting with Your Intuition. This isn’t the time to delve into Rory’s book – it is complex and challenging in its own right. Suffice it to say, it is all too easy to get swept up in pressing tasks that “have” to be done and forget to pursue stillness.
Stillness is accessible anywhere, and perhaps going into the woods in the fall has been my crutch to reconnect with the well of quiet that resides inside each of us. Still, I miss hunting season. Whether we knew it or not, many of our older American traditions, farming or on a smaller scale keeping home gardens and hunting or animal husbandry, all created opportunities for reflection, worship and recharging. We’ve lost much–and the next generation coming up behind us has lost even more–by giving up that connection to the cycle of life.
To read more of this month's journal, please click here.