There was an interesting comment by someone named “John” to my Christmas post about the memories of my dogs and cats, all stemming from the card Michelle had bought about our pets meeting us in heaven. It seems John, whoever John is, didn’t like my post and probably does not like any of my posts because John offered the opinion that (1) he (or she) hoped all the animals I shot would be waiting for me in heaven and (2) I wasn’t going there anyway. The inferred text being that I was condemned to hell. It is an interesting comment because it bears witness to something that I have observed about people who fall into that group of naysayers who only see the brutality of hunting and quickly lump hunting into the same category as dog fighting, cock fighting and other staged animal fights--they are rarely truly happy people. Hunters understand there is a brutality to the hunt and that brutality is shared equally throughout nature, just as Tennyson observed:
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law—
Though Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shrieked against his creed—
(Tennyson, In Memoriam 56:13-16)
There is nothing beautiful in the death of any living thing, whether that thing is a tree, deer, duck or fish. There is simple brutality in the death but it is nature’s brutality and from that death life emerges. It is that simple. The deer that I have killed did not die a movieland idealized majestic death of the hart. They bled, they died. I have always said a prayer of “thanks” for the gift of the deer or other game and on numerous occasions followed the European tradition of the last bite, adding the last breath because I have always felt that kinship with nature. (A few years ago a long time friend reminded me that I’ve always talked to trees.) The same is true of ducks, geese, and any other animal I’ve killed. I killed them for food and I’ve relished every bite and taste of their wildness because in that wildness I can sense mountains, plains, rivers and lakes, everything that is nature. Still, we must accept that in our hunting there is a brutality of the hunt, but the hunters I’ve spoken with have all acknowledged there is also an indefinable fullness of spirit that comes to them after a successful hunt and it returns when they sit down to a dinner prepared with the meat from the animal. It is a fullness that shows itself in closeness with friends and a deeper love for family. At the end of the hunting day, when the hunter drinks in the last of the alpenglow, there is no doubt that they are part of a grand world.
I am not so vain to believe every hunter is as mindful as those I tend to hunt with but the numbers of those for whom hunting does not tug at the heart are so small they are insignificant. Tragically, as with everything in our world today, it is the rage and stupidity of a few that paints all the good works of the many. We have to live with that.
I feel sorry for “John” because I suspect that when we peel back the thin veneer of his or her life that person is not very happy with the world they live in and don’t see it as a grand and wonderful place where nature defines us through everything around us. John also doesn’t “get” something about me—I hope the spirit of every animal I killed on my hunts is there to meet me in heaven so that I can again thank each one of them for what they did for me in this world.
As for John’s opinion that I am not going to heaven, well, John, that may be so but that’s between God and me. As for how I feel about it, I’m pretty sure I’m going to heaven because between 1967 and 1969 I served my time in hell. Have you, or is your world a personal hell?
8 months ago