To those who’ve seen the ubiquitous “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series of inspirational books, Judy Carman, of McLouth, offers an alternative.
Her book is called “Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul” (Lantern Books, 2003).
“I had to name it that because it was a way to shock people to think about the juxtaposition of those words, ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul.’ It stops people in their tracks, and they have to think about why I changed the words around. The chicken is no longer in the soup; the chicken has a soul,” Carman said.
The title of her book reflects Carman’s belief in the need to create a world where humans have expanded their circle of compassion to include all beings — including, yes, chickens, and the environment as a whole — not just other human beings.
Her perspective on the kinship between people and animals is attracting lots of attention these days.
Spirituality & Health, an award-winning New York-based magazine and accompanying Web site, recently named “Peace to All Beings” one of the 50 Best Spiritual Books of 2003.
It’s a prestigious award. Carman’s book was chosen from among more than 350 books that were reviewed and considered, according to the magazine. “Peace to All Beings” also is reviewed on the magazine’s Web site, www.spiritualityhealth.com.
Carman, co-founder of the Lawrence-based Animal Outreach of Kansas, an animal rights group, found out about the accolade about two weeks ago.
“The people at Lantern Books were all really excited about it, especially because Spirituality & Health isn’t a magazine that specializes in animal rights,” said Carman, who recently moved from Lawrence to McLouth with her husband, Michael Carman.
“There aren’t that many books that combine animal rights with spirituality, showing that connection. That was a dream of mine, that a spiritual magazine would see that my book had some value to its readers.”
“Peace to All Beings” is a 320-page collection of prayers, affirmations, guided meditations and stories that illustrate the spiritual importance of loving — not exploiting — animals and the earth.
Carman also shares many concrete steps that her readers can take to bless the lives of animals, find deep meaning in their existence and protect them from being viewed as mere commodities for human consumption and entertainment.
On the dedication page of her book, Carman shares a Universal Peace Prayer for the Animals: “Let us take a moment each day to breathe deeply, close our eyes, visualize and say, ‘Compassion Encircles the Earth for All Beings Everywhere.'”
Carman, who is a vegan — meaning she doesn’t eat, use or wear any animal products or byproducts — explained why she felt the need to write the book.
“I’ve been growing in my awareness of the suffering of animals for many years, and it just gets worse and worse. A lot of the faith communities are not responding to it, and a lot of them don’t want to discuss it and have it raised in sermons. It’s a huge taboo topic — animal rights,” she said.
Yet the core beliefs of many faith traditions — such as those expressed in the Lord’s Prayer — speak of the need to alleviate suffering and, in a sense, bring heaven to earth.
“I believe that once people become aware of the violence (toward animals in places such as factory farms, zoos, circuses and the fur trade), they’ll want to adopt a more fully compassionate and consistent way of life. Most people in faith communities truly want to do their part to make the world a more loving place,” Carman said.
In her own life, she tries to live by the ideas that are expressed in “Peace to All Beings.”
For example, Carman and Animal Outreach of Kansas are asking Lawrence and Douglas County commissioners to ban “exotic animal acts,” a law that would effectively prohibit most circuses from coming to town.
And Carman can be found many nights in downtown Lawrence, along with other Animal Outreach members, screening anti-meat videos and offering animal rights literature.
Carman actually wrote her book, originally titled “Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul,” as a self-published work that came out in January 2001.
Lantern Books subsequently spotted “Veggie Soup” at an animal rights conference in Washington, D.C., where Carman was selling copies of it.
Representatives of the company — a small, independent publisher that specializes in books about spirituality and awakening reverence for life — liked it so much that they decided Lantern Books should publish it.
Minor changes were made, such as the addition of “Peace to All Beings” to the title, and the revamped edition of her book came out earlier this year.
“I was thrilled. It’s just really validating when someone else thinks it’s good, too — somebody with authority, who knows what the market is and what people are interested in reading. I had done something of value,” Carman said.
Carman, 59, said she identified with the core belief of many of the world’s religions — namely, love — and that she was influenced by the teachings of Jesus.
“I hope that what people will take away from the book is to understand that God’s will is for peace for all creatures, all creation, not just for people,” she said.
“We’re here to evolve to be better than we are, to not be violent creatures, but to learn to be consistently loving creatures in everything that we do.”
12/27/2003 Jim Baker, ljworld.com