Killing Me Minty

I think I may have found the reason my blood pressure is up even though I’ve gone vegan, and it is the some reason my teeth were so badly strained at my last dentist appointment: 

Mouthwash. 

I started using off brand Scope, the green mint alcohol mouthwash, earlier in 2016. I thought it would be good for my mouth and my breath.

I was still thinking in terms of “killing bacteria” being a good thing.

But in doing the research for my self-care resolution this year, I learned that our good bacteria are a vital part of our systems, and that killing them off en masse is like burning down your house to kill a spider.

By the way, I like spiders. They eat mosquitos, which I hate. I try not to kill spiders if I can avoid it.

Apparently, research has shown that these “healthy” mouthwashes can raise blood pressure and increase heart attack risk. I do NOT need that at my size!

They also apparently make your bad breath come back worse after their smell wears off, they increase yellowing of teeth, and they can increase the chance of gum disease.

It seems the best way to fight bad breath is to keep your mouth’s microbiota well balanced, not to burn down the house.

So, yeah. I won’t be using any more of that stuff.

Why Bother? (Drone Strikes and Child Labor and Factory Farms, Oh My!)

Chickens Stuffed into Battery Cages

Sunday, I had someone ask me what I was trying to accomplish.  She was specifically talking about boycotting factory farmed meat and eggs, but I suppose the same could be said of several of my “causes,” including: Voting for a third party candidate in protest of the two major party candidates use of, and approval of, continuing drone strikes that kill hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Boycotting Hershey’s chocolate until they institute a plan to stop using cocoa farmed using forced child labor. Or, to go way back, making sure the diamond on my wife’s engagement ring was not a conflict (“blood”) diamond.

And I stuttered.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer.

What I finally came up with was this (and I hope I can phrase it more eloquently here than I did then).  Many of the evils we encounter in this day and age are systemic.  They are clearly above our pay grade, above the area of influence we have any power over.  And I’m talking real evil here, not policy differences (the argument whether the current welfare system helps or entraps the poor is not “good versus evil.”  Both sides have concerns for those who need assistance, they just don’t agree on how it’s done.  That’s not what I’m talking about).

When I encounter such an evil, when I become aware of it, I have a choice.  I can ignore it, pretend I didn’t see it, and by doing so, give it my support.  Or I can do something, even something small, to push back against it.

So what am I trying to accomplish here?  I want to preserve whatever shreds of my integrity still exist by not being blindly complicit with known evils.  I want to let the people around me know that these things are going on, that people (and animals) are suffering terribly.  I want to let people know that our disposable consumer culture comes with consequences, often for the weakest and most vulnerable.

And most of all, I want to remind myself.

Ayn Rand was wrong about a lot of things, but she was right about at least one.  If you can do nothing else, call evil evil.  Say it.  If you have no power to do anything else, name cruelty.  Name theft.  Name murder.  There is power in just saying the truth.

 

Blood Shed

Pascal Lamb by Josefa Cordeiro, circa 1660-1670

Pascal Lamb by Josefa Cordeiro, circa 1660-1670

I was in church tonight, and something the preacher said struck a nerve.  He said the animal sacrifices offered in Temple Judaism were not what brought about the forgiveness of sins, but rather an outward, physical reminder of repentance.  That got me thinking.

I don’t want to get into the theology of remission of sins.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “according to the law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness,” but that was within a Christians framework. Ultimately, the writer was pointing his readers toward the blood of God Himself, in the form of Jesus crucified.

What I want to look at is the second part, the reminder.  I think sometimes we find it easy to justify our sins, to make things easy on ourselves.  Sometimes we can’t see the consequences of our actions.  Other times we’re able to turn a blind eye to them.   I know I do.

But those consequences are real, even if we don’t see them. Every cold-hearted word, every missed opportunity to do good or turn the other cheek affects somebody.  Cruelty, moral cowardice, apathy, self-righteousness and callousness corrode our souls, sear our consciences, and make us like salt that has lost its savor.

The ancient Jews didn’t have that luxury.  Their sin offerings came from their own flocks, so they felt a financial impact.  But more than that, their sin offerings bleated and cooed and struggled with their bonds as they were lifted onto the altar.  Their sin offerings were often animals they’d fed, and raised, and sheltered.  Some of their sin offerings may even have had names.

And then the knife fell, and the blood poured from the wound.  When they watched the animal die, they knew their own actions, their own misdeeds, had brought about its pain and death.  They knew, long before gospels or epistles were written, that “The wages of sin is death.” [Romans 6:23].

No, I’m certainly not advocating a return to animal sacrifice.  Jesus was our sacrifice, once for all time.  But I do think it would do us good to think back, to put ourselves in their sandals. I think it would be good to remember what it cost our spiritual ancestors, and what it cost our Lord, Jesus. It would be good to remember that actions have consequences, even if we don’t yet see them.