Bigger Fish to FEED: Speciesist Language, Vol. 1

In an era where censorship is rampant and the very definitions of words are being redefined by Orwellian overlords, the language that we use has never been more important. The casual use of what some of us call "speciesist language," especially as life-lesson metaphor and parable, may seem harmless to most, but it normalises and perpetuates a paradigm of animal exploitation and abuse. Since I have evolved out of this paradigm, I now "feed two birds with one seed" instead of "killing two birds with one stone" (for example).

The following is my response to a composer who wrote an article using the terrorising and killing of fish as metaphor for the creative process:

Thank you for these thoughts, [name omitted].

I completely agree with your general thoughts on creativity and inspiration, and composing may indeed have some distant similarities to fishing. Unlike fishing, however, composition doesn't require the abuse of sentient beings, and making a point about composition doesn’t require a speciesist metaphor anymore than eating fish is required to obtain protein or omega 3s.

It’s been said that most metaphors don’t bear close examination, but I believe this one is worth exploring. Perhaps, if we learn to evolve past metaphors of destruction, we will also evolve (as composers as well as humans) in the most unexpected and delightful ways. In my own personally journey, I went through an extensive period of lyriclessness because I felt I didn’t have anything to say. Now that I have awoken to the plight of billions of land animals and trillions of sea animals unnecessary killed every year, as well as the literal emptying of the oceans by commercial fishing practices (#watchseaspiracy), I never seem to be lacking.

I would argue that composing is much more like foraging than fishing – especially “leisure fishing.” Truth be told, I’ve never participated in either of these activities, but it seems that BOTH of these activities require, as you say, patience, discipline, persistence and a decent amount of luck.

In my experience, however, composing is most definitely NOT a leisure activity. More like foraging, we are actively searching among our forests of thoughts, identifying useful ones, and actively avoiding the ones that will not serve us. Foraging requires at least as much persistence as leisure fishing, if not more so, with the added benefit of active pursuit and exploration in ways that do not cause pain or extinction (#watchseaspiracy).

Moreover, patience is crucial in many activities that involve creativity instead of unnecessary destruction. In fact, I think we’ll find that patience tends to be more closely linked to creativity than to destruction in almost every instance.

I’m inspired by leisure activities that don’t involve unnecessary terrorising and/or killing (there’s nothing leisurely or inspiring about this activity for the fish). I LOVE sitting by a lake or in the woods and communing with Nature. There is so much creative energy in these places and we absorb and honour that creative energy by simply being there and not by participating in the obsolete paradigm of human-as-constant-taker.

We are composers of the 21st century, and we need metaphors that are in tune with the reality of the 21st century. It’s how we stay organic (another appropriate metaphor). It’s how we evolve.

The time may come soon when there are no more fish to be had anywhere (#watchseaspiracy #watchseaspiracy #watchseaspiracy) and we will be sitting and waiting forever for that “big fish.” If we begin to evolve now, we won’t have to wait. Thanks again for your thoughts and for inspiring mine. Now back to the score!

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