Monday, July 16, 2007

And the Animals Shall Teach Us


Publication: "Nature's Pathways" Magazine © 2007
A new way to live in the world is being birthed and a new awareness is dawning in the collective psyche and on the planet. Humans are becoming weary of the way things are and long for spirituality and wholeness in their lives evidenced by the trends toward naturalness, alternative healing and community. Penelope Smith calls it “God is on the move.” Penelope Smith is the author and “guru” of animal communication with 30 years experience in human-animal-nature bonding. There is definitely a link between animals, nature, wholeness and spirituality. Mahatma Gandhi once said “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated.”

Animals certainly stir passionate feelings in humans. That’s good news. The bad news is that not all of that passion is merciful. Think for a moment about all the ways that animals impact human life—as companions, experimental subjects for laboratory tests, farming, hunting, safaris, mass production of commodities, as food for human consumption, as pets, as service animals, as breeders and livestock, entertainment and movies. Now think about your personal relationship to animals. What we are learning as animal communicators in a “new” and popular field, is that animals too, have feelings. They feel, can be passionate, have opinions, love and sometimes exist to teach their human companions.

The “new” field of animal communication is not new. Many native and indigenous cultures have communicated not only with animals, but with all of life. Native Americans are the people most widely known by the general population as people who communicated with the spirit of animals, places and spaces. The spirit of a thing was called “Manitou.” The Manitou of a place or thing could talk to the Indian contacting it through prayer or thought. For example to “make rain” was to pray to the spirit in charge of weather and to visualize the rain coming and falling—this ritual and accompanying movement often took the appearance of a dance. Natives talked to animals, rocks, canyons, mountains, rivers and vast areas of terrain. The Shamans of the tribe often translated for their peoples the reply received from the spirit of whatever they wished to speak with or listen to. The Shamans were considered Medicine Men and Women and were equivalent to a combination of village priest, doctor and wise elder.

It turns out that the Shamans were just making use of, and honing an innate ability that all of us have. It is even theorized by some that humans once upon a time communicated non-vocally and telepathically and that they didn’t begin using language until it was invented out of necessity and to record history. It is also being discovered and proven through the field of physics and quantum reality, that all things are inextricably connected and that the Universe appears to be a grand hologram. So both Jesus and Chief Seattle were right when they said that whatever you do to others, you do to me, yourself and the whole web of life. The least of these means those who cannot speak for themselves and those who suffer at the hands of others. That would include infants, small children the disabled and animals.

If you think about it, I’m sure there have been times when you knew exactly and without a doubt, what your companion animal was thinking. And often the behavior followed and proved your hunch. That is animal communication in its simplest form. Like any other muscle that strengthens with use, this form of communication can be developed and honed. Maybe someday we will all have the ability to talk to animals and if we do, they have much to teach us. Humans have unfortunately been taught the model of anthropocentrism which loosely translated means that we believe we are the center of the universe and that all things are relevant only to us. It also supposes that we have “dominion” over the earth which we have taken to mean “ruling power, authority or control.” That is precisely the patriarchal and hierarchical thinking that has gotten us into trouble with global climate change, oil consumption and our current eco-crisis. We often do not employ simple dignity, merciful treatment and humane methods of governing the lives of animals. We might find ourselves horrified if we knew all the intricacies of how animals become our food. We might demand more mercy; we are their stewards and we can do better.

Shifting the philosophy from “dominion” to “stewardship” softens the viewpoint and approach, makes a huge difference and begs a much different outcome. When we take on stewardship, we tend to take care of, and show mercy to nature and beings that are helpless or dependent in the wake of human contact. Historically, the human philosophy of “dominion over” has assigned other humans with differences like darker skin or of inferior gender to be lesser beings and even possessions. Some cultures and institutions still carry remnants of that philosophy. A sense of ownership has conferred slavery, domestic serfdom, and inferiority to “superior” humans. Recent research has found a link in our culture between animal abuse and domestic violence. A monumental human price is paid for ignoring the dignity and worth of all beings. What if it turns out that one day we regret what we have done to animals because we mistakenly thought them dumb unfeeling and inferior? Is that potential discovery really so outrageous? DNA, the human genome, cloning and other bio-sciences were once outrageous.

It is incumbent upon us to learn about the animals who touch our lives and to allow them to bring out the best in us—for that is what they do best. We are capable of treating animals abysmally or being indifferent to their misery in situations we place them in and then think little of it. They are sentient beings and some day we will treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve and honors their place in our lives. Until then the least we can do to our animal brethren is to show them compassion and mercy by treating all of them humanely and demanding that all others do the same. The current spiritual leaders of this planet are alert to how the treatment of animals relates to human capacity for violence or peacemaking. The Dalai Lama, in the tradition of Gandhi has now requested all Tibetans to give up harvesting the fur of animals for clothing. There is more to the world of nature and animals that any of us realizes. There is more to the earth and its stewardship than a treasure trove of resources for human harvesting. There is more to places and spaces than the average human can see or imagine. Our ancestors knew it and lived lives of reverence for all life. We would do well to learn their secrets. If you lived perpetually from this place of reverence, how would it change your life, your world, our world?

1 comment:

ladypurr said...

Hello Rev. Barbara,

Loved your article. Having loved animals since I was a small child, I have dedicated my life to be an animal advocate. It is my purpose and enriches my life in so many ways. I'm a huge fan of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and resonate with his "reverence for life."

Because of his love for animals, I've always held Michael Jackson in high esteem. When I learned reacently about his humorous effort to spare a "bug" that had appeared on the stage, it touched my heart and made me send out sweet "cosmic" hugs to him. I listened to Larry King interview Jermaine Jackson on the 25th. Jermaine said he was so gentle and thoughtful that he would try his best to let flies out rather than kill them.

The world is slowly being enlightened to the real man behind the entertaining phenomenon. I just wish more of us would have taken a much more aggressive, proactive role in defending him to the press. I know he's till be here with us.

An opportunity lost and it leaves me raw and aching inside.

If you are interested in some books that reveal incredible human-animal communication, I highly recommend "Animals as Teachers and Healers", "Animals as Guides for the Soul", by Susan Chernak McElroy. They are profound.

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...