I recently watched the last season of His Dark Materials, and find I have as much and often more empathy with the dæmons as I do with their human counterpart. (The dæmons are animals representing an aspect of the people, their inner self, anima/animus, or something similar.)
Why do I love animals? Why do I love nature? Why is it sometimes easier to find love for a non-human being than for some fellow humans?
There are many answers and they all (literally) come out of one.
Here are some that come to mind:
Non-human beings are often mistreated by humans. I tend to side with the underdogs, and in this relationship, non-human beings are almost always the underdogs. I have a natural empathy with non-human beings for that reason. (I know this particular dynamic is rooted in my own history and experiences.)
INNOCENCE & DIFFERENT HISTORY
The natural world has everything from cooperation and care to fights and mercilessness.
At the same time, we see an innocence there. For all their savvy and specific skills, knowledge, and experience, many of them generally function cognitively at the level of human children or babies.
Most non-human species must have mental representations and use them as we do, to orient and function in the world. And yet, it seems they are much less likely to elaborate on and believe these imaginations. They use them in a more simple and direct way.
For many of us, it’s easier to find love for animals. They are simpler. In some ways, they are innocent like children. For that reason, we don’t experience the same friction with them as we do with humans. We don’t experience the clashes of hangups and worldviews we experience with humans. And most of us have been more hurt by humans than non-human beings, we have a different history with them.
For all of these reasons, it’s often easier to find love for non-human beings. And especially the ones we know personally and live with.
Animals mirror me in several different ways. I see myself in them.
They mirror my animal nature. They mirror how I am with a simpler mental field. They mirror how I am minus my more complicated – and complicating – human mental field with elaborate ideas, beliefs, identifications, etc.
And the different animals mirror different parts of me as well. Whatever story I have about any type of animal, I can turn it to myself and find specific and genuine examples of how, where, and when it’s true.
And since I wish to have – and have – some love and care for these parts of me, I have the same towards the beings mirroring these sides of me.
WE ARE CLOSELY RELATED
All Earth life is closely related. We are all, literally, part of the same family. We share ancestors. We are cousins. We are far more similar than we are different. We share far more than what’s unique and different.
We are “we” far more than we are “us” and “them”. And we all know this in our cells and bones and our mind when we subtract our complicated human mental field. Any ideas of separation come from our ideas, not from reality.
PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM
We are all part of the same living and evolving system we call Earth or Gaia.
We are subsystems in larger living systems.
We are subsystems in the larger systems we call the Earth and the universe and all of existence.
We are all expressions of the same larger living wholes.
We are part of the same metaphorical body we call life, Earth, the universe, and existence.
And that’s not just metaphorical or poetry or wishful thinking. It’s what current science tells us.
As Carl Sagan said, we are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are existence bringing itself into consciousness.
We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.
EXPRESSIONS OF THE DIVINE
We can call existence and reality God, Spirit, or the divine.
Here, we can say that we are all expressions of God, Spirit, or the divine.
We are all the divine expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself temporarily and locally as us.
We are all the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the divine.
We are the divine bringing itself into consciousness through and as us.
PART OF THE ONENESS I AM
There is also another oneness here, and one that’s far more immediate.
In one sense, I am this human being in the world.
Ehen I look in my own first-person experience, I find I am more fundamentally something else. I find I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I find that the world, to me, happens within and as what I am.
I am the oneness the world, to me, happens within and as.
To me, everything – including any being – is part of the oneness I am.
And to the extent I allow this to sink and infuse and transform my human self, this gives birth to a natural love that’s not dependent on feelings or states. It’s the love of the left hand removing a splinter from the right.
WORDS AND LANGUAGE
I use the word “animal” here since that’s the terminology most people use these days.
In reality, we are all animals. We are all living beings.
There is no reason to create a hard and imagined boundary between us and the rest of Earth life.
We are all closely related. We are all in the same boat. We are all embedded in the same larger living systems. We are all expressions of the evolution of the universe. We are all expressions of existence. We are all the Earth, the universe, and existence expressing, experiencing, and exploring itself through and as us.
When I hear the word “animal” I am reminded of the old Greeks who used a similar mind-created division. They called any non-Greeks barbarians. I assume future generations may see our current human-animal distinction as equally quaint and old-fashioned.
Today, there is a growing awareness of all the many ways racism and sexism is expressed in society and our language. In the future, I assume there will be a similar awareness of how our anthropocentrism is expressed in our language and society, and a movement to change it.
CULTURE & OUR ECOLOGICAL CRISIS
How we see humans versus the rest of life is obviously dependent on our culture.
In some traditional cultures, all life is seen as related and part of the same whole.
The irony is that in our culture, that’s the view of science. Science tells us all life is closely related and part of the same living evolving systems. And yet, most people operate on an outdated and misguided idea of the basic separation of humans from all other life. We operate on misconceptions while we know better.
Why? I assume it’s not just because of tradition and habit. It’s also convenient. It allows us to keep using and abusing non-human beings and nature in general.
And that brings us to saw over the branch we are sitting on. It’s out of alignment with reality, and operating on ideas out of alignment with reality has consequences. In this case, the consequence is the destruction of the living systems we are fully embedded in and dependent on.
I’ll add one topic that’s been on my mind since my early teens.
I have personally never liked noise or loud music. I love silence and natural sounds, and less human-created sounds (apart from some music).
And, as far as I can tell from research and personal observations, it seems I share that with most non-human beings.
So why do some humans apparently love noise and loud sounds and music?
I don’t know but I assume it has to do with our noisy and complex mental field and what happens when we take certain (painful) ideas as reality. (Taking any idea as reality is painful in itself, no matter what the idea tells us.) Perhaps the outer noise masks the inner noise, at least for a while? Perhaps it’s a strategy to distract ourselves from our own discomfort and pain?
Perhaps it’s a sign we haven’t found peace with our own experience, as it is? A sign of war with our experience?
In our culture, we act as if we are at war with nature, and we act as if we are at war with our own experience. The two are closely related. They depend on each other. And they may break down together.
FINDING PEACE WITH OURSELVES & PEACE WITH NATURE
In most cases, if we find peace with our experience, we tend to find a deeper love for nature. And finding a deeper love for nature tends to be reflected in finding more peace with our experience.
Of course, both take work. And even if we find this peace, and wish to live in a more peaceful relationship with life in general, we are still living within a social and economic system that is inherently destructive. It was created at a time when we didn’t need to take the limits of nature into account. And now – with increasing human numbers and more efficient technology – it’s obviously destructive to life.
We can personally experience peace with life, but our life is not peaceful to life as long our collective human system is as it is.
It takes personal intention, skill, and work to find peace with our experience.
It will take a similar collective intention, skill, and work to find real peace in our relationship with nature – and transform our collective life so it takes ecological realities into account. Read More