Welcome to the week, everyone! Today I wanted to post something a tad different than my usual socio-political commentaries on veganism and animal justice. Lately I’ve really been trying to move through the world guided primarily by my heart, while letting my head take more of a backseat (since for most of my 20 years on this planet I’ve allowed the latter to make most of my decisions, to the detriment of my holistic well-being).
In the middle of this past spring semester, I came up against a metaphorical wall in my ability to work through tough issues and ideas–once a staunch enthusiast of the analytical essay, I realized that intellectualizing without feeling the immense reality of those issues and ideas, I would only be able to get so far in terms of doing meaningful life work. So I wrote my first poem. Then I wrote a short story. And those two small acts opened up a whole new way of feeling my way through the world, instead of just thinking my way through it.
In the short story I’m sharing below, I’m trying to (in a very small way) work though the (multifaceted, gargantuan, frustrating, confounding) task of decolonizing a Western mind indoctrinated by arrogance, capitalism, white supremacy, and The Enlightenment. I hope it brings some joy to your day.
Once and forever there was a young robin who moved about the woodlands with two miniature snakes living on each of her shoulders.
The snakes whispered into her ears, “You are a perfect snowflake! You deserve all the world has to offer! You will rule the skies one day!”
The robin wasn’t entirely certain where these whisperings were coming from, for the snakes were invisible to her. Nonetheless, she enjoyed their words and thought about them especially when she interacted with the other animals in the woodlands.
Then one day, the robin left the woodlands for the forest. There, the snakes were devoured piece-by-piece by the owls who lived high up in the trees.
The robin didn’t like the silence that existed in her ears without the snakes. She decided to search through the forest for more niceties to fill her ears.
First the robin came upon a swarm of dragonflies. She asked, “I don’t know what to think of myself without the whisperings! Will you help me?” But the dragonflies only whizzed beyond and through one another, creating a mass of wings and thoraxes indiscernible to the robin. She moved on.
Next the robin met a colony of ants. She once again asked, “I need the whisperings to define my place in the forest! Will you help me?” But the ants merely continued working with one another to form an entrance to their underground home by collecting individual grains of sand. So the robin moved on.
The robin next encountered a web of spiders. She asked them, “I’m lost without the whisperings! Won’t you help me?” But the spiders went on visiting each other’s spots on the web, crawling contentedly toward the next spider after conversing with the previous one. So the robin continued her search.
Finally the robin came upon a group of otters. She asked one last time, “The whisperings gave meaning to my life! Please, please help me.” But the otters persisted in their playful swimming, laughing at themselves as they knocked sea urchins against their heads. So the robin left them.
The robin was in despair. She sat in a forest clearing and began to cry. “Why do I even exist in the forest at all?” she wailed.
Soon, an owl began to slowly descend from the forest canopy and landed next to the robin. The owl advised the robin: “Think of the animals you’ve met in your journeys. Then do something with it. The first something you can do involves yourself.” And the owl soared into the sky.
Though the robin was still thoroughly confused about her place in the forest, she felt called to create something from her confusion. Hesitantly, with only a few notes at first, the robin began to chirp a song. Another robin swooped down next to her and began to chirp along in a different key and to a different tune, yet together their chirps formed an even more beautiful song. The more they chirped, the more animals gathered around them, contributing to an inspired cacophony that rang through the forest.
In solidarity, Ali.