Over the years I have become much more aware of the importance of the creatures, plants and elements of our world and our interconnectedness to them. Although I am not a pet person I surely admire those who like to curl up with their furry or feathered friends. Seeing and interacting with animals in the wild is attractive to me, especially when I’m able to be a few feet closer to them than is probably recommended.
Previous expressions of my own spirituality were born out of patriarchal systems, and those that evolved in spite of those systems still left the animals in a submissive, second class role. Most people are familiar with Mahatma Gandhi’s words, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated.” Unfortunately, thousands of creatures, domestic and wild, are being slaughtered by us or left in torturous situations or led to the brink of extinction by our human activity.
Through the most recent stages of development, human beings have thought of themselves as superior to the creatures around them, and that the animals, plants and elements of the earth need human control. This misunderstanding of our relationship with these neighbors of ours has done great damage.
The book that I am presently reading is called Spirit Unleashed: Reimaging Human-Animal Relations, by Anne Benvenuti. She is a professor of psychology and philosophy, a licensed psychologist, and an interdisciplinary scholar and priest of the Episcopal Church. She uses the sciences, cultural studies and personal experiences to show that the animals have souls, systems of communication and progression. In the midst of all her academic presentations, her bottom line is simply to show us that if we find new ways to relate to the animals we will find out what it will take to change life on earth for the better.
Other studies have said that it is wrong of us to project human feelings onto our animal friends. But we have to use our language, expressions and emotions in order to understand a variety of things including the ways in which animals live with us. So I have seen, as I’m sure you have, the animals’ sense of humor, their ability for compassion, their deep-seated ways of caring, building community and using their creative, calculating minds.
I have photographed a little bit of the humor in our furry friends this past week. When violence erupts near us or even within us, it is important to see that there are still humorous things around us. Our tears of laughter need to be mingled with our tears of sorrow so that we may stay grounded and continue to find our purpose for building community and a better world.
“All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?” – Buddha
PS – Please don’t leave any potential pets at my door step. I would rather – on occasion – hang out with the bears, whales and picas in their natural settings.