Intentional Removal of Life

I’ve hesitated to write over the past few days, mulling something over in my mind which is not necessarily the cleanest or happiest of subjects for any religion, much less my own, with our ever-present, “An’ it harm none, do what ye will.”  Yet, for the first time in my life, I have been present for and partially responsible for the death of an organism with a closed circulatory system.

I am a biology major in college, and biologists often find it necessary to work with organisms which are not breathing.  Some studies – studies of nerves, the brain – require freshly dead organisms.  And so it was with our class on Thursday, as we were told we were going to profuse a pin fish, to preserve it and study its parts.

My stomach didn’t flip then.  I hadn’t really given too much thought to the process.  The fish was maybe the length of my wrist to my elbow, anxious in the bucket of water it had been placed in.  The standard procedure for profusion of fish, then, is to apply a powder anesthetic to the water, and wait until the fish is only breathing, and is not responsive to outer stimuli.

The fish is then removed from the water, flipped onto its back, and sliced open – the equivalent of cutting open our chest – breaking ribs as necessary.  The heart is found – observed – and then a cut is made into the conus of the heart A “ringer” solution – of the basic saline content of the fish at hand – is injected directly in, effectively bleeding the fish out.  With the heart still pumping – hopefully – a formalin / formaldehyde solution is pumped into the heart.  The heart does most of the work, getting the formaldehyde into all of veins and capillary beds, into the muscles, to preserve the fish.

I’ve always been a bit of an empathic person, and the class of eight students and three or four adult faculty seemed oblivious to my plight.   As the fish bled, so I felt the blood draining from my body.  And as the formaldehyde was just beginning to be pushed into the heart, I left the room – I could no longer see or hear very well, overwhelmed with a deep pain that began in my shoulder blades and worked its way through my entire body, complete with intensive sweating and hot flashes.

When the fish died, I began to feel better, and reentered the room without a word to anyone other than a faculty member – who had noticed, and offered some water and a place to sit in the adjoining lab.  And so, without any accident or moment of repose, I had been witness to an act of murder – a willing, deliberate, planned taking of life.

And the other students stood around our small sister of the earth with great interest.  The professor, explaining what he was doing, as he removed the top portion of the head to get to the brain.   I too, joined in the observance – because I genuinely am interested in the anatomy of a fish – and survived the class with my normal amount of enthusiasm for the practice of biology.  The fish had two ovaries near bursting with eggs – which apparently we will have to count later.

I know that the school of fish in the aquarium from which the fish originated is needing to be thinned out, and they are going to continue to thin the population – the fish almost had it out for her, from the beginning.  I also know that observing the profusion is a good experience to rely on in my future professional career.  Yet, a part of me wonders – how many organisms have died for “the study of life”?  And what is my role – as a witch – in the world of biology?

In one sense – we are witches in the sense that we must ever be observers of our fellow humans.  In some fashions, like parents, we are made to watch and do nothing – that the greatest lessons may come from this for those in question.  It is not my place to attempt to change the entire foundation of science when often the dissection of animals is necessary.  Dissecting twenty dead fish may aid you in saving the lives of hundreds as a marine biologist.  The same goes for those interested in veterinary medicine, or even human plights of some sort.

Humans were perhaps the most blessed – or the most cursed – by the gods.  We cannot run the fastest, we cannot swim the swiftest – we are not heavily armored or exceptionally good at digesting things that can’t fight back.  The only thing we were given is our mind – and with it, morality and responsibility.

Yet, that fish – my first observance of intentional death – will remain in my memory forever.  The pain I felt as she passed, can perhaps sort of compensate for her death.  True, she was going to die whether or not I was present, but I felt that at least, in being present, I took some of the pain.  “Be at peace,” I remember thinking to her, before the powder was going into the water to numb her senses, “You will be home soon.”

After all, I’ve always been taught that we(witches, shamans, etc) were here first, and we are the observers, and the caretakers, and when the world is ending, we will be those final lights – we will lead the others home.  I just got an early start :-/ .

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Evolution; Intelligent Design

You know, as a pagan in a predominantly Christian world, I can honestly say that often, I find myself comparing and contrasting spiritualities, religions, and beliefs, with my own.  I always tend to wonder – how are we different?  And most importantly – if I believe that (some of them) they are so closed minded, what have I accepted as truth that is closing my mind to other revelations?

My place of higher education is having a speaker today on intelligent design.  Now, I don’t know much about it, but I do know that, for whatever reason, evolution has been handed down as a theory, and not as a fact of life.  We learned briefly about intelligent design in high school.  Personally, I think its a mix of the two.  After all, our creation story tells us that

The goddess existed, and she cut herself in two, and she made love with herself, and created the world.

(To sum it up…I know there’s lots of details in there, but I’m rather short on time)

It’s a beautiful story, a little more romantic than either of the others.  But, I’m not really sure what I think – and I don’t see how or why the beginning of the world *really* comes into play in my every day life.  Now, I know there are plenty of reasons, and I can contradict myself…but to me, its an arcane argument that can’t really be won, and I would end up choosing arbitrarily unless I a) spend lots of time in meditation or b) find an in-between animal the evolutionists claim to have existed.

Keep in mind that I am a biology major.  You know what that means?  Yup.  That means that everything I learn in my biology classes is related to evolution!  So, as a means of ease, I accept evolution for what it is – a theory that is widely used in the science world, a theory which many other theories are based on, and a theory which I must base at least some of mine on.

I would be all for the theory of intelligent design, which I am merely guessing can be summed up as, “There was an intelligent creator who made the universe.”  Its great right there!  Stop, ye Christians!

Because I know, that even though I cannot attend the lecture tonight (I have a test), the speaker will end up along one of these tracks…

  • And then Jesus died, and so we all must be Christian
  • Surely it was a great God who created this world
  • My entire theory is about disproving evolutionism

So, although I take both with a grain of salt; evolution wins in this case.  And only, only, because it is the lesser of two evils.  Let’s just say I don’t like having Christian beliefs shoved down my throat (which is how the concept was introduced to me, in the first place).

Have a gorgeous day!