So, my very first actual blog post ever, and it’s about chickens.
This came about from encountering a building full of battery hens en route back to the farm after a hike to a pretty incredible waterfall close by. I guess it was the contrast between this beautiful, natural thing – how the water carved out an extensive gorge from the rock; how when you looked up at the semicircle of walls around the waterfall it felt like being in a cavern – and the obscenity of seeing so many animals crammed together, presumably pumped full of hormones, stationary and stinking in their own waste. The chickens at the farm have a different way of life. They’re relatively free, and able to live out their chicken-lives without the confinement of battery cages. Admittedly their feathers still get ruffled: the five dogs are a constant pest, not to mention the daily rummaging through their nesting boxes in search of eggs. They are allowed to roam, however, and are not discouraged from breaking away to nest and hatch out their young. Are battery hens distressed by their conditions? Is that even the point, when as humans we can perceive their behaviors as distress and still not act on it? It’s interesting, too, how we can feel so passionately about such subjects in the short space of time after being alerted to them, and then promptly forget and resume our previous endeavors. As of right now, I feel fairly strongly about sourcing meat and dairy products carefully – something that comes easily while working and living on a semi-self sufficient organic farm – but will probably care much less when the time comes to move on.
That, of course, can be extrapolated to many other situations. I realized recently – not that the thought hasn’t occurred before, but the guilt is starting to set in – how much time I waste doing nothing, or worse, nothing of interest, even personal. Just so much time spent for exactly that purpose: passing time. I’m a little worried that this is the sole reason I came to Costa Rica a second time; as somewhere that I loved and felt comfortable right from the start, and somewhere sufficiently far away from anything resembling what was previously real to me. It does give that other-worldly kind of sensation, at least to someone who was brought up in a completely different culture: full of overwhelming colors, and species; and growing, everywhere growing. It’s a fascinating country, and maybe one that I’ll come to understand better over time.
Then again, it’s easy to fall into a puzzled kind of apathy when you’re not fixed in a certain place; especially when it comes to having any sense of a moral compass. Meeting so many different people from a multitude of different backgrounds, crashing into each other with this general common factor of ‘travelling’, is like an overload of beginnings of ideas, which can be blocked out by a sort of accumulating numbness to others’ viewpoints. Then there are the many confusing ethics of tourism. Is it wrong to visit far away places, when many people don’t have the opportunity? Or is it just taking advantage of having few responsibilities, and the option to move around so cheaply by working for room and board? I tend to try to stay on the side of leaving as little impact on a place as possible; preferably attempting to gain an idea of the people and culture through work – but how can you know which of your actions, particularly in relation to volunteer work, are doing more harm than good?
I’m not sure at which point I came to dislike the word ‘travel’. Maybe this is because it has come to encompass everything from gap years, to people trying to “find themselves”, to those living in a country on a permanently renewed chain of tourist visas, to globe hoppers, travel bloggers, vacationers – and so on. Some I find easier to sympathize with than others; and not always those in similar circumstances. Likewise, it can be difficult to know which category one fits into. There are the buzzwords which are associated with certain ways of thinking, that are not necessarily positive or negative. For example, two separate conversations, (or maybe ‘explanations’ is more appropriate), about spirituality and karma over the last week were respectively infuriating and mesmerizing. And although I love to hear people speak with authority about a subject they feel they have mastered, I find it impossible to understand how anyone can be so confident with regards to such unanswerable themes. Even more incomprehensible are the people who claim to be lost, or searching, and yet seem to hold this unshakable certainty of how the world works.
And then, when your head is full of things and people that you don’t, and sometimes don’t want to, understand, you remember the reason you had for wanting to leave the structure of the place you started at. And it’s so simple, and most likely something you’ve wanted since you were old enough to pick up a fantasy novel, or a map of the solar system, or an encyclopedia, and know that there is so much out there that you want to explore. The same thing that sparked your love of literature, or art, or science, or mathematics. Even better, occasionally along the way there are people who inspire you, and make you remember all the motivation that you’d forgotten. As somebody wise told me recently, it’s “bittersweet, how we flit in and out of each others’ lives”. And it is; and sometimes more bitter, sometimes more sweet.
I think what I’m trying to say is that I’d like to be a free-range chicken. Even if I have no desire to go visit a waterfall, or build my nest away from the hen house – or even if I sometimes forget that I once did have that desire – I’d like the ability to be reminded of it.