The collision with the deer chewed up the front of my car. The deer was killed.
Living a somewhat public existence, I am experienced at having strangers comment on my life. I ignore angry or nasty messages and have come to understand that in the modern interactive context, consumers of information often feel they own a piece of the subject matter if they are given access to his or her life. This is, I think, somewhat natural. Sometimes you can learn from these messages, sometimes not.
I think sanctimonious messages bother me more than other messages. The truly spiritual and idealistic people I know, those who are truly pious, do not have a need to show and announce their good works. They simply perform them. A good friend of mine has rescued dogs, donkeys, horses, birds and countless cats. She has never mentioned these rescues to anyone, or call her animals "rescues," other than to say these are her animals and she loves them. The good deed is enough for her. It is not enough for many people. This morning I wrote about hitting a deer, killing it, but avoiding injury to me, Maria or two friends in the back seat. This prompted many lovely messages of concern and sympathy, and some sanctimonious ones, like this one from Karina:
"…I feel it important to respectfully knowledge that someone was hurt, a life was lost." Writing about the deer, I did not feel the need to write how awful it was, how frightening and disturbing to see this wild creature trashing under the wheels of car, and then circling in panic and dying in front of me. And I had not yet had the nightmares about it that were coming. It seemed self-serving to me to say that, and too obvious to be necessary. Anyone who loves an animal knows how I felt, and has probably felt the same thing or worse. How curious that Karina would call a deer "someone" and compare its death to the loss of one of my friends. Or that she would think I needed to be reminded by her - was not present, did not watch that animal die - that something had been hurt. It seemed clear that her message was not about me, and my experience, but her and what she needed to show.
The dictionary definition of sanctimonious is to make a show – sometimes hypocritical – of religious devotion, piety, righteousness. Some people do good, and others – like some of those who proudly and insistently announce their dogs and cats were abused – appear sometimes to have a need to be seen as going good. Sometimes, it seems to me that what is important is the rescue, not the dog or cat. I am uncomfortable saying that I am doing good. I would be viscerally uncomfortable saying Simon or Frieda or Izzy were abused, or that they were rescued. I want to do good, I try to go good. But that is between me and my soul, not me and you.
I also wrote yesterday about my friend Nancy's getting a puppy Daisy, and got many messages praising Daisy's cute demeanor, but also some thanking me for mentioning that she had come from a shelter. "Thank you for mentioning that," wrote one person on Facebook, "just saying that will probably save 100 dogs today…" I had the same the same unease as I did with Karina's message. I wasn't trying to save dogs, and the message was not about me. I believe that there is no one right way to get a dog, other than the way that works best for the people and the dog. The puppy was not on a religious mission of mercy, nor were the people who got her. Why does the adoption of a puppy turned into an act of sanctimony, of people feeling good about themselves, of this show of forced and erroneous gratitude? Should border collies and Labs and Golden Retrievers vanish from the world because some people think they have the right to tell other people what to do? Dogs in breeders cages have a right to live, also, thought. I don't share this often selfish view of what is good for a dog, and I don't grasp why people should assume that I do, just because they do.
So I think it is important for me to say that this is sanctimonious to me, this strained injection of piety into other people's lives, this need to show piety rather than be pious. And this is the hypocritical part to me. The truly pious people I know do not ever tell other people what to do, nor do you ever know much about the good that they do. Blessings to those of you who do good for its own sake and permit me to do the same.