I don’t normally do book reviews, much less book raves. And yet… I just finished a book that captured me completely, Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. While I knew I would like it, I didn’t realise the moral dilemma it would present.
My sister loves octopuses. And fyi: it’s not a Latin root, so the plural isn’t made by ‘i'; you can, however, call them ‘octopodes,’ if you’d rather, for the Greek. She’s loved them for years, and because she does — and because of the very little I knew about their intelligence — I’ve never eaten them. I have no problem w/ squid (‘calamari), but no octopuses. After reading Montgomery’s intricate, fantastic orchestration of a book, however, I have other issues as well.
Because Montgomery doesn’t only illuminate the intelligence — and heart — of octopuses. She also shines a bright light on the rich emotional lives of lumpfish, anacondas, and other unloveable (and edible) residents of the New England Aquarium. In her sharing of the attachments these animals form w/ other animals — Killer the painted turtle falls in love w/a pumpkinseed sunfish; the male lumpfish incessantly cleans his lair for indifferent females — and her inclusion of various research, Montgomery reminds me why I was a vegetarian once.
All life, the Buddha tells us, is sacred. Every single bit. And it’s all connected: Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.
Science confirms this with such provocative theories as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the idea that the observation of quanta necessarily influences the observed data. In other words? At even the smallest sub-atomic level, our actions influence the actions of ‘other.’ Not to mention that we breathe through our skin (and so inhale all the released atoms of everything that ever lived & died & degraded into molecular bits), and water contains what lives in it.
Which brings me to the thorny question of vegetarianism.