Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Jeremy Lloyd lives in Townsend, Tennessee, in the Great Smoky Mountains. Due west, south, and east of his home are forests containing some of the richest biodiversity on the continent. Due north is good beer. He is at work on a novel.
My point is that, in our culture, in order to even entertain the idea of an ethical predator, the observer must approach the subject with an open mind. Ethical hunting is predicated on dignity and respect: Dignity in our private thoughts and public words as well as in our actions afield when, as hunter Aldo Leopold pointed out, nobody is watching us. And respect, not only for the animals we hunt, their habitats, and the greater natural world, but also for ourselves as hunters and human animals. Carry those two blessed burdens in your heart, and you will do no moral wrong as a predator.
I think that civilization and real wilderness can coexist in North America and elsewhere, but we’ve got to allow room for wilderness and wild creatures. A favorite word of mine is wildeor, which goes back to the time of Beowulf and the origins of the English language. It means the “self-willed beast.” From the very beginning, civilization has tried to domesticate the beasts, and if we can’t domesticate them, then we destroy them. We’ve got to allow land to be wilderness, which means, in Old English, “self-willed land.” Letting some things have a will of their own, not trying to control everything — that is the challenge.
When we said, “Be a Christian,” who we really got that from was Thomas Merton: Be what you are. You are already katallagete; you are already reconciled. So behave as if that’s true. It’s a fine point to make, but it’s a very important and, I think, radical point.