Ethical Eating

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I posted this picture of fruit to make it look as though I’m being all nice and healthy. In reality, I’m eating a piece of pound cake brought to the office by one of my colleagues today. It’s delicious.

I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not an evangelical vegetarian. I’m against evangelizing of all sorts. I think there’s a fine line between practicing evangelism and practicing emotional (and sometimes physical) terrorism. In my mind, Jesus was a teacher, not a preacher. Those who’ve taken up preaching, not teaching, in the name of Jesus have it all wrong as far as I’m concerned.

Preaching makes people believe that they, in all their very human weaknesses, must be right at all costs. It leads to a kind of intellectual dishonesty that is just as wrong as any other human failing and often far more dangerous than most. So I think it is with evangelical vegetarians as with any other group passionate in the spreading of a cause. It’s so hard to admit when you care so much that you might not always be right.

But that’s another article.

I’m brainstorming topics related to digital ethics for my students right now, and every way I turn I keep running into ideas and information related to the ethics of eating. Maybe that’s because I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I don’t know that I will ever love a book more than I love Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, but this one has me thinking.

Though I am a vegetarian and happy that I am I do not honestly believe everyone should be. This is a personal choice. I wouldn’t try to impose it on others, and I am not against, on ethical grounds, the practice of eating meat. What I am against on ethical grounds is the practice of mass producing meat. I don’t like the idea of killing animals, but I accept the need to put human survival first, and I also accept that some people would have difficulty thriving, if not surviving, on a vegetarian diet. People who work hard physical jobs, for example, would find it difficult to eat enough carrots and chickpeas to keep going. I’m good with that.

I do, however, believe that the process animals go through to reach the supermarkets and the fast food restaurants is unhealthy as well as unethical. Feed lots, chicken houses, and mass use of antibiotics are not good. They amount to cruelty to humans and animals alike.

That’s basically what this book is about. Kingsolver and her family embark on a year of living on as much home grown and locally produced food as possible. They allow themselves only a small list of grocery items–coffee, spices, whole grains–that they purchase from places that truck them in. Otherwise, they wait for the wild cherries and planted asparagus to come in. They are not vegetarians, but for meat they rely on their own free range chickens and turkeys.

This makes so much sense. It’s the way everyone did it before McDonald’s came to town. Though now that we live in a fast food nation, it requires extraordinary effort and an extraordinary sense of purpose to go about even eating in the way that is best for our bodies, our communities, and our environment.

I can’t do it. I can tell you that right now. My energies are required elsewhere. I ate a tangerine this morning. I don’t know where it came from, but this is January in Mississippi. Clearly, it was not locally grown. The only thing I can say in favor of the tangerine for breakfast is that it wasn’t a Pop-Tart. Perhaps, like Kingsolver, I would shudder to learn how much fuel had to be consumed to bring that tangerine to me, to say nothing of what conditions the fruit had to be grown in so that it would still be edible when I bit into it.

I can’t follow the path of this book, but it inspires me nonetheless. I do plan to purchase more food from local sources. Ellisville has a fruit stand that buys from local farmers. Hattiesburg has a farmer’s market. This year I plan to devote more time to seeking out not only healthy food sources but locally grown food. Who knows…maybe I’ll even plant my own tomatoes when the time comes. It would be the ethical thing to do.

Now if I can only find a way to parlay this into a digital ethics topic, I’ll be able to offer it up to my students as an idea. Hmmm…

How to Complete a Blog 365 Project

Understand, I’ve never actually done this. I’ve put in a month at a time of blogging daily before but not a whole year. I’m talking to myself when I give this advice. I’m on Day 20 of what didn’t so much start out to be a 365 project as it did to be a blog more project. Now that I’ve gone 20 straight days without missing a day of blogging–slightly more than 5% of a year–I’m full of confidence. Sure, I can do it. Why not?

Here are my tips to me on how to do it:

(1) Practice variety. The problem with writing on a particular topic for a whole year is that you run out of things to say, or you at least run out of things to say without doing more research which you don’t have time to do because you are busy holding down a job and cranking out a blog. Mix and match. Give yourself leave to write about anything you want.

(2) Do a series or two or five. It’s hard to write about one thing every day, but it’s good to write about a particular thing–like what you’ve been reading–one or more times a week. I’m starting to shape up some ideas for series blogging, but I need to do more of that. I’m trying to post a poem at least once a week and a book review at least once a week. Let me know how it works out.

(3) Cultivate cameramania. The camera, I think, is a superb addition to the blog. It gives me items to post that I don’t have to think out first, and it makes the blog on the whole more interesting and more artistically satisfying. I’ve wanted for a while to include more images with my posts, but that became problematic as soon as I started worrying about whether the images I found were legally available to be reposted by me. Taking my own shots solves that problem. It also makes the images I combine with my writing more meaningful to me. On the whole, it’s a huge motivator.

(4) Write with students. Anyone who teaches writing should make a practice of writing along with students from time to time. That’s a necessity on so many levels. I don’t know how many of the exact assignments I’ll do with my students, though I will do some of them. However, what I mainly plan to do is to write on the same topics I’ve given to them. This is the best way I know to help them think through what they are doing–join the struggle. I’ve chosen “digital ethics” as the class theme this semester for ENG 1123. This week I’ve been writing introductions to topics related to digital ethics for my students on a class blog. I’ll be adding more to that blog a little at a time for the next few weeks, but I also plan to write on the topic some here as my experience of it evolves along with the class’s experience.

(5) Set up mobile blogging. I haven’t done this yet, but my iPhone and my blog have the capacity to speak to one another. I don’t see myself doing much in the way of mobile blogging, but there will be inevitable days when I’m too busy to sit down in front of the computer at the end of the day. A quick note from the phone would, if nothing else, save me from having a blank day on my blog calendar in that situation.

(6) Save up posts. I’m obviously terrible about this. If the point is to post once a day, I might post three or four times a day. I could be saving extras as drafts to publish later on days when I had nothing. If I know ahead of time, though, that I’m going to have all day meetings or something of that nature that would interfere with blogging, I hope I’m savvy enough to save up something I only have to hit the publish button on.

(7) Participate in Twitter events. I started the weekly poem effort due to happening across the Poetry Tuesday Twitter event. I need to find more of those events to join because they are very motivating. Once you join a communal effort, it becomes a social activity, which keeps you pumped up to keep trying.

(8) Read more blogs of like-minded people. Nothing inspires writing more than reading.

(9) Blog experiences. One reason I’m loving the camera so much is because it is taking me away from my desk for at least a few minutes every day. That makes me feel like I’m out there living a life not just doing a job. Picking things to do so as to write about them is an excellent plan for the same reason. A. You’re actually doing something. B. You’re keeping up with your writing goals.

(10) Forgive yourself. This 365 thing? It’s not going to happen. Something will come up that drags me down, wears me out, demands all my time. If nothing else gets me, exam week will. That’s okay. Though I love to see the days fill in on the blog calendar, and I want to see as many as possible colored in, I have to accept that holes will appear. The point isn’t so much not to miss a day ever as it is to still be writing regularly at the end of a year. People even give themselves days off on their vows for Lent. The blog is not a vow. It’s just a hope. It can survive a few letdowns.

Office Envy

These are just a few things to be found in my friend Tammy’s office. I have major office envy.

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It was a rainy day, and I had to stay indoors for my photo-journey. Luckily, I work with people who have more than multi-colored paperclips around their desks. Thanks, Tammy.

Been Down This Road

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Q&A, I call it. I go into the online classes, and I create places for people to ask me questions. This is where I learn that I could not, for example, make my living at a help desk. I invite the questions, and though I apply as much patience as I can muster to the answering of them, still I think why?

Why are you asking? Didn’t you read my last response to the last student? Didn’t you read the class syllabus? Didn’t you see that I answered this before? That I have answered it a thousand times before?

How easy it is to forget that this person wasn’t present for the thousand other times I answered the same question or the hundred times I rewrote the class information to clarify. This person was only there for this one utterance of the question. This person hasn’t been down this road before, does not carry the ghost of thousands of previous students on his back, is not concerned with my own particular need for variety. This person just needs to know.

Answer the question, silly, and move on.

Poetry Tuesday: Just as you…

Just as you think you’re nosediving
like a pigeon caught in the tail
by an out-of-season firework,
you find yourself talking
to someone who was once
a bad place in your life,
talking and thinking
like the song says,
let it be, words of wisdom,
and you droop with suspicion
that it’s your own name you
peck out of the pigeon pecked
earth whenever you go
picking about for enemies
because life can always be worse,
so much worse, and it might
be again now that the words
are stuck in your head,
let it be, words of wisdom,
stuck now with you,
a breadcrumb trail
that won’t quit you
as you peck along
leaving behind all
that was so bad for you
for so long except you.