How we relate to other species

A neighbor cat comes to stay with me most of the day and evening, although I don’t give him food and he has to go home to his family at night.

His family is home most of the time, so he is not here because they are gone. I suspect he comes because I give him attention, because I may be a novelty, and perhaps most of all because I treat him as an equal.


I see him as consciousness, just like me, that just happens to operate through a slightly different body.

This consciousness here operates through this body, which happens to be human. And that consciousness there operates through that body, which happens to be a cat.

In the realm of stories, it’s similar. We are both expressions of life, existence, and the universe.

He is the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe, just like I am. He is the universe taking the form of a cat. I am the universe taking the form of a human.

And in terms of evolution, we are closely related. What we have in common is infinitely more than the little that differentiates us.

In all the ways that matter, we are equal. We are the same.


Just like I would with any visitor, I try to be a good host for him. I give him water. I let him out when he wants to go out if the door is closed.

Just like I would with a child, I try to be a good steward of him while he is here. I rescued him when he fell down into the basement. (He fell into a ventilation shaft while exploring, and landed on a cardboard box and was unharmed.) I make sure he goes home at night to spend the night with his family.

And just like I would with a friend, I am attentive to his needs, wants, and moods. I try to be a good friend to him.


Many treat cats as… cats. They see them as mainly different from us, and they adopt a lot of the cultural baggage of how we in the West treat non-human species. Cats are generally OK with it, but it does create a sense of division. Humans see themselves as divided from cats, and cats sense and adapt to and respond to that.

I and others treat them as equals. We are all living beings. We are all fundamentally consciousness to ourselves. We are the universe taking these local and temporary forms. And cats respond to that as well. They seem to enjoy it. Just like us, they enjoy being related to as equals.

That may be one reason why cats seem to want to spend time with me. (And why I have a history of “stealing” cats in that way, which people tend to not like.)


This, of course, goes far beyond non-human neighbors visiting.

This has to do with how we relate to all of life – ecosystems, this living planet, and future generations.

Since I live in our current system, my life inevitably is mostly destructive to life. That’s how it is for just about all of us. For instance, I fly in commercial airplanes, and that contributes enormously to my ecological footprint.

I also try to help shift us all – and the system we have created for ourselves – in a more life-centered direction. I worked with sustainability for many years. (I was the coordinator of a local organization that helped individuals and groups make shifts in a more sustainable direction.) I have volunteered a lot. I write some about it here. I vote for the Green Party. I am creating a nature reserve in the Andes Mountains. And so on.

It’s a drop in the bucket, but many drops create an ocean. And I am a very small part of helping shift our current system into something that can be far more sustainable.

Photo: The photo above is from last night. He has been coming here for the last two weeks since I moved into my parent’s house to get it ready for sale. (My parents just moved somewhere else.)

Read More

Joey Lott: Spiritual Speciesism

Normally, what we mean by saying that one is spiritually awake is that such a person no longer identifies in some sort of exclusive manner with any particular form. Instead, such a person knows herself or himself to be unbounded. Which is fine. This is a perfectly sane discovery, in my opinion.

And, I might add, it’s nothing special. In fact, although I cannot know this for certain, I highly suspect that this is the effortless, natural experience of all wild living beings. Frogs. Rivers. Trees. Mountains. The reason I suspect this is that it seems to me that these beings have no reason to suspect otherwise. Without the stories and concepts that we believe then it seems to me that the unbounded connectedness of all apparent forms, the timeless nature of all that is, is perfectly self-evident.

I see no reason to call this “spiritual”. Because to call it spiritual suggests that it is somehow special or apart from something else. But by nature of the unbounded nature of what is there is no possibility of special. There is only what is.

– from Spiritual Specisim by Joey Lott (it’s worth reading the full article)

What he says resonates with me. Living within nonidentification is natural. It’s what plants and animals – and the rest of life – does effortlessly.

And yet, humans are unique, just as any other species is. Our strength is a certain form of cognitive ability, where other species have other strengths. And none is inherently any “better” or “worse” than those of any other species. They are just different.

We humans are very young in learning how to use our cognitive abilities, which is why we tend to create a lot of problems for ourselves at individual (suffering, confusion, beliefs) and collective (wars, injustice, ecological harm) levels. Our cognitive abilities are themselves very young, and our familiarity with it – and attempts to learn how to live with and from it with more wisdom – is also very young.

These cognitive abilities flavor the expression of life in a unique way. A way that sometimes includes identification, and sometimes nonidentification. And all species, and all individuals, gives their unique flavor to life’s expression. It’s all life exploring, expressing and experiencing itself in a myriad of ways. None inherently any better or worse than any other.

In general, I really like what Joey Lott writes. And I also see that I feel more comfortable adding a few things, making it a slightly “more complex simplicity” as he calls is.

Read More