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…and then there were two

January 22, 2013

I buried another chicken today. Her name was Colors and she was three years old. She came from a distinguished Chilean lineage, the Araucana, best known for the tufts near its beak and its bluish-green eggs.

Colors was killed by a predator. I found her around 4:30 in the afternoon after getting home from work. She was upside down, her breast ripped open and her head nearly severed. Her body wasn’t stiff or cold. It’d probably just happened.

I found the remainder of the flock, Omelet and Black Rider, huddled in the extreme far corner behind the garage, wedged between two cedar fencing slats. They were very scared and didn’t resist at all when I picked them up and returned them to the coop. Then I dug a hole next to Henrietta’s grave.

Both chickens went naturally, I suppose. One to sickness, one to predation. Make no mistake about it: nature isn’t a walk in the park. Nature isn’t safe. It can’t be quantified and understood in sixty minute segments between beer commercials, and it can’t be tamed through legislation.

There’s a philosophical line of thought which goes like this: Aren’t humans part of nature? Well then, doesn’t it follow that everything humans do is also part of nature? And doesn’t that mean the impact humans are having on this planet is a natural process too, and not something to be concerned about?

Maybe so. But if that’s true, murder wouldn’t be a tragedy or a crime. It would be natural selection, survival of the fittest; weeding out the weak to strengthen the flock. It would be a man-eat-man world without the thin veneer of civility we’re currently sheltered by. But it isn’t. Recent gun-related events highlight all too plainly the value we put on human life.

So what sets humanity apart from nature? Over the years I’ve heard a number of theories, some thought-provoking and others simply zany. Only humans shed tears. Only humans laugh. Only humans read and write. Use tools. Nurse the sick back to health. Bury their dead. Gather their poop communally. Mate for life or not with no distinct biological imperative. Now, some of these may be true. I’m sure most of you reading have found fault with at least one theory, perhaps all. Regardless, none of these theories are sufficient to separate humanity from nature. They simply state (possibly) unique characteristics of Homo sapiens.

Philosophy asks questions. Science draws lines. Humans impose stories on top. Over time the questions either get answered or forgotten, the lines become indelible or get redrawn, and the stories that stick acquire the mantle of truth.

Folks, it’s time to ask questions again. It’s time to reexamine the truths we’re living by, whether we realize how they’re affecting us or not. Are humans not mature enough for freedom? What is a healthy society? Why can’t we all just get along?

What does this have to do with a chicken?

Well, my flock has dwindled. Soon I’ll have to buy a new round of chicks and start over. Fortunately I can. Chickens are about as endangered as humans these days, perhaps less. Chickens do kill chickens, but not with guns. They don’t bomb each other or shoot up schoolyards. They don’t commit murder/suicides. And they only fight when some errant hen tries to buck the pecking order.

You might say that’s a chicken’s nature, but I call it humane.

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