Recently Muslims in parts of the world,as part of a religious rite, slaughtered a ram in rembrance of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God's wishes. I saw a picture of a young muslim girl kissing her pet ram just before the slaughter and it brought back vivid memories of when I participated in a similar event.
When I was 16 I went to Southern Utah to "survive" for 30 days off the land, while hiking over 300 miles. Usually we were given a ration of 1/2 c. dry oatmeal, 2 tbl. brown sugar, and 1 cup of flour to eat for a week. But one particular week we ate completly off the land. We ate ant larvae, black snacks of some variety, a rattlesnack, and lots of greens, while hiking over 50 miles. When we reached our base camp, a ram was tied to a pole in a small haven surrounded by trees. We were informed that we would kill the ram, to experience a profound gratitude for the ram giving up his life, that we could eat. The deeper metaphors were left for us to discover on our own.
What I remember most vividly was that this ram KNEW what was going to happen. He started breathing so heavily that he labored to just take in a raspy breath. His entire body trembled with no control. His eyes darted from person to person.
The girl that volunteered to kill the ram, elected to use a knife to slit his throat. She was not strong enough and so after stabbing the knife in, was unable to slice to the other side. A man offered to help, but with no success. Finally one of the leaders loaded a gun to kill the ram, who had been crying with an eerily newborn baby sound. The shot sounded and it was finally over.
What did I learn from this macabre experiment? Well, right then I learned that no matter how hungry I was I would not eat the meat. (I was the only one out of 35 to do so). I learned that we all share a spirit of life, witnessed by the rams behavior of pre-knowledge. I learned that if they were trying to teach me about God sacrificing his son, it did not work. I just felt horrible, with no greater principle to hold onto. As the years have gone I can't say that I have progressed into any deeper metaphor. Did I equate God The Fathers sacrifice of His Son? Partly yes, but...the lesson seemed lacking and as much as I wanted to think of God's sacrifice, I just felt empty. Mostly, I just keep thinking whoever came up with this idea, must have thought it would profoundly affect young minds to a more spiritual bent. But what actually happened for me was a disgust that a group of humans could take part in such a needlessly painful way to slaughter a living animal. It was wrong. Wrongly conceived. Wrongly executed.
I think of that young muslim girl slaughtering her pet ram and I hope that with the sacred rites of her religion, her experience will have meaning that will strengthen her beliefs, instead of leaving her bereft and questioning.