• Four AV Cube participants  standing back-to-back, dressed in black, wearing anonymous masks, holding TV screens in Harvard Square.

Compassion in Gentle Action: There’s a New Group in Town, Offering Us All Exactly That

Compassion in Gentle Action: There’s a New Group in Town, Offering Us All Exactly That

There's a new group in town showing compassion in gentle action. Come find out about it every other Saturday in Harvard Square.

“Oh, I wish I could make a difference in this tired, harsh world of ours!” many sigh, crouching low in our sense of worldly ill-repair and helplessness. We want better. We do. We want better.

What if there were an organization that offers education, support, greatness of spirit to move us towards ease, making a difference. Would that not be just so welcome?

But….what if that organization – in offering compassion in gentle action – asked something of us. Something more than a little hard for us. Rather challenging. What if it asked us to be conscious, and to act on our consciousness? What if?

And who said that important thing about rare people? Who was it? What was it they said? I’m trying to remember…Oh, yes, it was American television personality Dick Cavett, and this is what he said: “It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” Let’s change “hear” to “know.” It’s a rare person who wants to know what they don’t want to know. Well....are we not all rare at times? I think we are.

What if that compassion-driven and –driving group asked us to know what we don’t want to know? To know that what we eat causes suffering in those we eat. Easy to understand it when we put it that way: Eating someone makes them suffer in horrible conditions, in loss of social relations, in their slaughter. No one wants to be held captive, tormented, slaughtered and eaten - not even those of us who treasure having new experiences. On a real level, we do know that it's wrong and untenable. But we put a layer of not-know on top of it. And we are stilted and defended by that sacred yard between our hand and our mouth. That untouchable space that makes us not want to be rare. That makes us not want to know what we do not want to know.

But would a compassion-driven and –driving organization that hangs out with us in Harvard Square a couple of times a month, offering listening, information, be able to tender us towards knowing what we don’t want to know? Yes, it would. And it does. And it’s here in Cambridge now.

It’s a branch of Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV), an animal rights organization that carefully, tenderly, gently educates, supports, and shepherds we long-struggling humans with yard-lengths between our hands and mouths, towards a wider circle of compassion in action. Towards food choices that make a difference – a healing difference – in the lives of our non-human, share-the-planet folk (aka “animals,’ of which we are but one species), and in our own lives from a health, emotional, and spiritual perspective.

This organization operates what are called “Cubes of Truth” in which there stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, back to back, individuals wearing – yah – unusually anonymous masks and holding TVs and other screens loaded with don’t-want-to-know footage of horrific captivity and slaughter of all sorts of animals that many of us love to eat. Distant, as we are, from the conditions of these beings’ lives (if we should even call what they endure “lives”) and deaths.

While the folks in the Cube stand there, silently, in stillness, anonymously, folks who might be ready to know what they don’t want to know sift around, looking at the footage, considering. The other Anonymous for the Voiceless people called “Outreachers” hang back while folks take in what they are watching. When the time seems right, the Outreacher carefully approaches the watcher and begins a gentle conversation: “Do you know what you are looking at?” referring to, for example, the grinding up of live newborn male chicks, useless to the egg industry. The Outreacher explains what’s in the footage, looking at it with the perhaps-now-wants-to-knower, answers questions. And gently encourages the seeker to consider vegan options.

What is being an Outreacher about in the AV settings? “I can’t convert anyone [to veganism],” acknowledges Outreacher Nico. “It’s a personal choice. We just do what we can to show the reality of what animals go through. I ask the people questions. We talk about the fact that people can innocently make bad decisions if they do not have the information they need to make good decisions.” Nico moves through the spread-out group of screen watchers, carefully and respectfully approaching watchers, wonderers, and invites them into a conversation about – well – knowing. And making better choices. When someone is ready to commit to trying a vegan lifestyle, he hands them a card (see image) with resources to offer support during their exploration.

Lucas, someone who had come through Harvard Square and found himself drawn to what was before him on the screens, said, “I’ll probably change my diet, yes. It’s a process, but this – this – [pointing to the disturbing images on the screens] – I don’t think people know this. I don’t think they do. If they knew it, why would they keep eating these animals? I don’t think people really, deep down, want to be part of making others suffer.”

“There’s active engagement here,” notes Jess, an Outreacher. “Sometimes people approach the Outreachers because they want to talk about what they are seeing for the first time.” It’s true that the conditions in which non-human animals are kept is thoroughly unknown to those of us who eat them. And that hiddenness is purposeful. Precisely because it is understood that most people do not want to be part of a system built on suffering. This uncloaking happens in AV Cube settings with no confrontation by Outreachers. Just kindly approach or openness to being approached. It’s the best form of activism I have ever seen. And the folks who stand in The Cube are dedicated and physically still in their resolve to help people witness real life. “It’s freezing cold in the winter, and people in The Cube do this. It’s dedication.” And its dedication to both the non-human animals cared about, and to the humans sifting through the footage.

Caring about the people exploring the want-to-know-what they-don’t-want to know is pivotal and a deep part of what AV does. There is no change – no change – brought about by trying to brow-beat people into knowing what we do not want to know. It just makes people shut down. Indeed, the approach of AV understands this, and implements compassion in its actions.

Come see the beauty and compassion of Anonymous for the Voiceless in Cambridge’s Harvard Square every other Saturday at 5 pm. You can find out when the AV: Cambridge Cubes happen by joining their Facebook group, and by visiting AV's website and exploring the chapter map.

If you'd like to learn about how to become a vegan, and get free support, visit AV's Support page on their website. Hey, if you've read this whole article, chances are you're ready to know, if you don't already. Thank you, and onward we go.