The Deer

Mary PW Chin 穷孩子
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Doe, a deer!

O give me a home where the buffalo roam, where the d-e-e-r and the antelope play. Where never was heard, a discouraging word. With this, let us commit to be ever empowering — at home, at work, on the street, in the social media, wherever.

The deer, not the piano, taught me staccato. Audrey Hepburn's female deer in fact originates from the same hometown of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Salzburg. The Malay language endows upon the deer a royal and kingly name: Sang Kancil. Malay fables characterise Sang Kancil with unrivaled intelligence. Deer is indeed a protected and sacred species. No, I shouldn't have favourites. All species in this kingdom should enjoy equal affection of course, but most of us can't help it.

University of Surrey represents herself by the symbol of the deer. I studied there and, some years later, returned to work there. The Central Bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara) too, adopts the deer in her logo. In countless transactions I exchanged cash notes and coins with a deer engraved on them.

Deer habitually caught me off-guard. They like throwing surprises. In Malay we refer to such surprise encounters as terserempak (a verb). In Chinese we call destined encounters 缘. In Mysore (India) we were on a night bus when my friend shook me up violently. Opening my eyes in the direction of his pointing finger … doe, a deer of superb health and puffy checks looking right into my eyes, just within that split-second as the bus drove passed the sacred animal.

Another memorial encounter was on Easter Sunday at Ladywell (England). After some difficulties, feeling for latches in the dark and trying hard not to activate any alarm, I finally managed to get the door open. Doe! A deer darted across the drive way! His sustaining energy charged me for life.

It is right behind UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington that a rare species of deer populate a green patch called Bushy Park. That is a majestic scene. Further unexpected encounters with the deer took place at Mount Zion of Washington DC and Surrey Research Park (England). In Prévessin-Moëns (France) the deer made occassional but fearless apparitions. Whenever they appeared, they came by the size of a family. I couldn't help growing positively superstitious with each apparition. How I longed for more.

Our longest contact yet was in Nara (Japan), where a blessing deer sat by me in quiet contemplation for over an hour. I trust that the blessings last without requiring a renewing visit.

There was an unfortunate occasion at Backafallsbyn (Ven). Finishing a served dinner, we were each guessing what meat we just had. I swore that it was definitely not beef, not pork, not chicken. So, we inquired from the waiter. To my horror, there it went: my protected species. One of the mistakes least possible to undo. Oh dear, just hours ago during my random walk around the woods, I had spiritual exchange with one of the same clan.

I was then reminded of an incident at an emu farm near Perth (Australia) donkey years ago. After finishing lunch at the farm restaurant the host proudly announced that it was emu meat which was served, I nearly threw up.

Halalkan yang termakan dan terminum. That's the Malay / Islamic phrase closest to my heart. That's what Muslims say to each other on Eid (Malaysians call it Hari Raya Aidilfitri). Translated literally, it means bless all that has been eaten and drunk by mistake. Isn't it elegantly humble to ask for pardon and forgiveness this way? The challenge for Catholics is to say sorry direct to the person they wronged. Whether or not they go to the priest for confessions (modern term: the sacrament of reconciliation) is a separate matter. I like to see the exercise of reconciliation (exercises may be holy, why not) as picking up and rearranging chess pieces on a toppled chessboard, positioning each piece back in place.

So, why am I a meat eater? If I shouldn't eat meat, I mustn't eat vegetables either, and that will leave me at a cul-de-sac. That will not do, so I take both meat and veg. I see comparable levels of life in animals and plants. Being unable to run, cry or bleed does not push vegetables down the hierarchy it rightfully shares with animals. Eating principles have a lot to do with taxonomies. Some see human being sharing the same level of life with animals but not plants. My personal taxonomy classifies smiling and non-smiling creatures: boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen smile. Cats and dogs, horses and donkeys, cabbage and potatoes don't.

It was a gentleman at a bus stop by Downtown Eastside who shared with me, "It isn't what enters the mouth which contaminates a person, it is what comes out from the person's mouth which contaminates." That is so true! He was with his mate. One introduced himself as alcoholic; the other, a smoker.

Whatever diet principles we subscribe to, vegetarian or vegan or not, two points ought to be clear. Point number one, no dietary principle is superior, we must not fall into the trap of self-righteousness. Point number two, being selective is fine when one prepares and consumes the food within a small circle of family or friends — being very selective can become very limiting when meals are served by or shared with others. This is just an effect in terms of practicality; nothing to do with right or wrong, good or bad, white or black.