Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

27 November

Answering My Call. Reaching Out To Heal The World.

by Jon Katz

I don’t wish to list the terrible things that happen daily.

They are easy enough to see. Almost every day, I wonder what the few things I can do to help all this suffering that make any sense or are remotely practical in my life.

I work with the Mansion residents. I work with refugee children. I work with the Army Of Good. I try to do a good thing at least once every day.

They are, by definition, small things, small acts of great kindness.

Every time I look at the news, I shake my head and wonder at my sense of impotence.

Is that enough? It sometimes seems that violence and suffering are expanding way behind my capacity to make a difference and sometimes make me feel useless, helpless, and discouraged.

That is always a discouraging and pointless line of thought. I am not God or any God, and I do not have the power to turn the lives of the angry, wounded, and impoverished people around.

It would be hubris to the extreme to think I had any gifts to do that.

Thinking like that can paralyze and depress me and make me give up on the idea my life has a real purpose or meaning.

When that happens, I rebound this way: I think of the word call and begin to revive and come to consciousness.

I have worked on a spiritual life hard enough and long enough to learn that I am not called to save the world, solve its problems, or help all of the poor or broken people.

Even the people who worship a God realize that their God can’t do it either or won’t.

But I have, as everyone has, my unique call: in my family, work, and life. I can help with the small things.

I have to keep asking my own idea of God for help sometimes in helping me see what my call is and give me the strength and heart to honor that call, live it and keep it with trust and honesty.

Every man or woman on earth is challenged by life, and they can only answer by answering for their own life and can only respond by being responsible for themselves.

One spiritual philosopher I read wrote that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the troubles and suffering of our time. It is accessible and doable.

So that, with all humility,  has become my faith, my rebirth, my resurrection.

If I had to put it into a few words, I would say it is the idea (actually St. Terese’s idea) of small acts of great kindness. The Little Way.

That’s the term that most defines and captures my call.

If I can’t handle the number of awful things that occur in the human world daily, I can embrace my call to respond in this small and faithful way.

I first heard this call sometime in 2016, have listened to it every day since, and I am committed to it fully.

My calling is not what buys me food and shelter; it is what I am put on this earth to do with such passion and commitment that it becomes spiritual in calling.

I have to take the word of others to accept the idea that this is the most healing response I can offer to the troubles and violence of our world. That’s not something I can know, only believe.

It is the best I can do and a good thing I can do, and I can do it every day.

That is my response to the people who starve, are homeless, perish in wars, and are struck down in their lives and homes all around me.

I answer the call. It’s the best I can do, and I will do it as best I can for as long as possible.

I am grateful to the many good people who answer that call with me.


27 November

Bud’s Plea. Be Merciful

by Jon Katz

I might be fooling myself again, but I don’t think I’m overly sentimental about my dogs. They are dogs, not people, and  I try never to forget the difference for their sake and mine.

Bud has gotten to my heart in a way no other dog has. He has suffered as much or more as any animal I have known (except maybe for Simon.)

I love Zinnia to death, but she never gets her hands on my soul the way  Bud does. She has never suffered much in her loving life.

As many of you know, Bud was rescued from a brutal man in the South of Arkansas, and he suffered unimaginable neglect and cruelty and barely loved through it.

A rescue group saved him from death by buying him from his sadistic owner. His other dogs were already dead.

I won’t go into the details of his suffering; many people who are reading this know as well or better than me about what some people do to dogs and other animals. And honestly, I don’t think you or I need to review it again.

But it has gotten to me for sure. For years, Bud wouldn’t come close to me. Now, when I sit down in my reading chair and put my feet up, Bud often waits cautiously for a sign, and when I tap the footstool, he jumps up and stares into my eyes.

When he is satisfied, I pat him on the head, and he curls up into a ball and goes to sleep. We read and stream together.

I never know what is happening in a dog’s head.

They don’t have our words or vocabulary, and we don’t know what they think. to be honest.

But dogs awaken our emotions, and  what I see and hear is “Bud’s Plea.” I imagine him pleading with me, asking me to love him, scratch his head, permit him to curl up in my lap and be good to him.

I hear him asking not to be hurt.

That’s what those eyes keep telling me, even though I fully understand that I don’t have the words or the understanding to know what he is really telling me.

All day Bud rushes all over the place, looking for trouble and adventure, but not at night. At night he just wants peace, love and rest.

I don’t take it for granted. It took nearly three years for him to trust me to jump up next to me or curl up between or around my legs and knees and sleep. It only takes a sudden move or shifts for those eyes to pop open and he is ready to flee.

We are getting close.

This connection happens all the time now, and perhaps this is what he pleads for – a place to rest and be safe. It happens almost every day now, and we are used to it. It almost seems to me sometimes that Bud can’t believe what is happening.

Bud has that kind of eyes that everyone who looks into them can conclude what he is trying to say. That’s the thing about dogs. They are blank canvases; we can paint whatever we want.

I need to keep his trust and offer him safety and love. And I think he knows now that I will.

That is what the great philosopher Thomas Aquinas wrote about dogs. They are on this earth along with other animals to teach us mercy. That is the reason to be good to them.

27 November

Bucket Dump. Every Day, Around 2 p.m. , A Bucket Full Of Gourmet Leavings And Slop

by Jon Katz

Every day, Maria saves the table, cooking, and vegetable scraps and puts them into a bowl. She often throws in a few tasty things for good measure. She takes the bowl or bowls out to the barn and dumps the slop (that’s what we call it)  into a big red bucket. In truth, it is most often the leaving of fresh or gourmet food.

The bucket fills up quickly, and she takes it out to the pasture fence every afternoon after lunch. She dumps it over the wall and onto the pasture. The sheep, donkeys, and chickens gather to eat the slop, peck at it or gobble it up.

They always know when she is coming, we suspect they can hear us talking in the kitchen.

There is no panic or rush, or crowding. They all take their turns.

However they do it, they are always gathered by the fence and waiting.

Zinnia and Fate are there to collect any scraps that might fall on their side of the fence. We keep them out of the pasture during the “Bucket Drop”; they would likely get kicked in the head or butted.

They are always delighted to see Maria coming. She is always good news.

The donkeys are the most powerful, and the other animals give them some space until they pick what they want. When the food is gone, the hens show up to look for the small leavings. It is all very calm and polite.

There is always something for everyone to eat. The barn cats stay away; they want no part of a crowd.

They do not grovel for food, they simply quietly demand to be fed.

They are above it all.

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