This is Bunny, the newest member of my animal family. He lost his mama somehow so I’ve adopted him. He is awfully cute and fuzzy, but still I wish I didn’t have to adopt him.
Just as there are all kinds of human mothers, there are all kinds of cow mothers. Some mama cows are devoted and determined, others are flighty and nervous. Sometimes when the herd moves to the next pasture a first-time or a nervous mother will lose her new-born calf in the crush and not find it again. I’m always on the lookout for this. I don’t like it to happen and am always trying arrange things to prevent it, but it does happen now and then.
Adopting a newborn calf is not a winning proposition in any way, shape, or form. Under the best circumstances, it requires lots of expensive powdered milk and many hours of bottle-feeding for me to raise a calf, and even then I don’t do half as good a job as a real mama-cow. Sometimes the calf is already too far gone by the time I find it, or gets sick and doesn’t make it. It can be heart-breaking. Some ranchers refuse to do it, citing survival of the fittest and the evolutionary mandate to delete the “irresponsible mom” gene from the pool. They have a point, but I see it differently. I see it as one way to show my respect and appreciation to the cows, to reciprocate and, yes, perhaps, to assuage my feelings of guilt at making a living off of them, off of their living and dying to feed us: the human community. At the very least adopting Bunny redresses an unfortunate situation that is partly my fault.
From a wider perspective, as I see it, taking in this orphaned calf is one small, concrete way to share human cleverness and invention with other species. I have access to powdered milk and grain and veterinary medicine; shouldn’t I share it with this fellow being in his hour of need?
I believe that this might be the whole point after all: to create a realm of shared well-being with each other – other humans, other animals, other forms of life, plants, microbes, air, land, water. This is what our big brains are for, our evolution, our education, even our technology. I don’t know what other point there is. What is money for in the end but to make places where our lives and other lives can flourish? What is work for? What, even, do we fight for but that? For life. For the well-being of the people and places we love.
We don’t need heroes, celebrities, politicians, or tycoons. We need people to quietly care for each other, for their fellow creatures and for the places they live in because that is the most enduring joy and the way to make things right.
And this is what I’m willing to fail at, over and over again, because that’s what we do as well. We try and we fail – that is what people do – and then try again, until maybe you get some little bit, some infinitesimal part of what you are trying to get at to actually come into the world for a flickering moment.