Sunday, March 26, 2006

Clarity of the Hunt

Michael Pollan, one of my favorite writers, has a long piece in today's New York Times Magazine. It is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals," in which he examines four meals from their beginnings in nature to their endings at the table. The article recounts his experience hunting boar in northern Sonoma County, and it's bloody (in every sense of the word) fascinating.

Here's an excerpt:

"The fact that you cannot come out of hunting feeling unambiguously good about it is perhaps what should commend the practice to us. You certainly don't come out of it eager to protest your innocence. If I've learned anything about hunting and eating meat, it's that it's even messier than the moralist thinks. Having killed a pig and looked at myself in that picture and now looking forward (if that's the word) to eating that pig, I have to say there is a part of me that envies the moral clarity of the vegetarian, the blamelessness of the tofu eater. Yet part of me pities him too. Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on a denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris. Ortega y Gasset suggests that there is an immorality in failing to look clearly at reality, or in believing the force of human will can somehow overcome it. "The preoccupation with what should be is estimable only when the respect for what is has been exhausted."

"What is." I suppose that this as much as anything else, as much as a pig or a meal, is what I was really hunting for, and what I returned from my hunt with a slightly clearer sense of. "What is" is not an answer to anything, exactly; it doesn't tell you what to do or even what to think. Yet respect for what is does point us in a direction. That direction just happens to be the direction from which we came — that place and time, I mean, where humans looked at the animals they killed, regarded them with reverence and never ate them except with gratitude."

Read the whole piece. It's nourishing.

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