This week: Our Animal NatureEdited by: Sophy v.2021
More Newsletters By This Editor
1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions
Hi, I'm Sophy v.2021 ~ your editor for this edition of the Spiritual Newsletter.
The Rev. Scotty McLennan, author of the book Finding Your Religion, compares humanity's innate need for spiritual searching to climbing a mountaain. In his view, we are all endeavoring to climb the same figurative mountain in our search for the divine, we just may take different ways to get there. In other words, there is one "God," but many paths. I honor whatever path or paths you have chosen to climb that mountain in your quest for the Sacred.
Our Animal Nature
Gandhi - I want to realize brotherhood or identity not merely with the beings called human, but I want to realize identity with all life, even with such things as crawl upon earth.
Henry Beston, The Outermost House - For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complex than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.
This week I invite us to consider our relationship with our kin from the animal kingdom, or as Henry Beston calls them, other nations. We don’t often acknowledge that we are part of the animal kingdom, as listed in the hierarchy of biological classification's major taxonomic ranks. We humans tend to consider ourselves superior – elevating our status of “human” while considering the rest as being merely “animals.” In truth we are all animals and have much more in common than not, none the least of which is the inherent value of all of our lives. For God created and blessed them, as God did us, and saw that we were all good.
Historically for a number of reasons humans have believed, and thus behaved, as if we are unique among creation and superior to the rest of it, due to our intellect and opposable thumbs. The Genesis creation story is partly to blame, with God telling us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” This has been perceived as our God-given right to abuse the earth for our own uses rather than a responsibility to care for and be stewards of it. One need look no further than the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s protest against them for proof of that mentality. One is fueled by greed and disregard for creation – the other stands with nature.
This way of thinking about the non-human animal kingdom is what some ethicists call species-ism, the “ism” label reminding us of racism, sexism and other discriminating “isms.” Species-ism emphasizes difference and separation, as do all “isms,” and involves the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership. This serves to distance us from the natural world and its many sentient beings, and risks making the world and its creatures mere objects to be manipulated for our own ends. Species-ism is why some people experiment on rabbits to create safe eye make-up, fight dogs to the death for their entertainment and financial gain, breed puppies in backyard crates where their feet never touch grass, or chase and murder whales in the southern Arctic ocean or dolphins in a bloody cove in Taiji, Japan – because some of us think of animals as not only different, but also as less than.
But this way of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth, which science continues to prove. Jane Goodall writes of her life’s work studying chimpanzees: “It has taught us that the similarities in biology and behavior between chimpanzees and humans are far greater than anyone had supposed. We are not, after all, the only beings with personalities, rational thought, and emotions. There is no sharp line dividing us from the chimpanzees and other apes, and the differences that obviously exist are of degree, not of kind. This understanding gives us a new respect, not only of chimpanzees, but also for all the amazing animals with whom we share this planet. For we humans are part of, and not separate from, the animal kingdom.” (From the Introduction of Hope for Animals and Their World, Jane Goodall)
So as much as some would like to ignore and separate us from this fact, we are very much connected to all of life that is found on this planet we call home, and as a result, in some ways we humans have become the invasive species that uproots and squeezes out the native species that lived in a specific region. “We are like kudzu that has intertwined itself around and in between the natural landscape of trees and shrubs [in the south], or the rabbit in Australia, with no known natural predator, reproducing at uncontrolled rates and destroying the resources for the native species of that sub-continent,” writes Fred Hammond. As I mentioned earlier, Western Christianity’s traditional interpretation of “having dominion over the earth” has a lot to do with this. But it hasn’t always been this way. Native peoples and pagans have always recognized and honored our connection to animals and the rest of creation, as have some from our own Christian tradition. St. Francis of Assisi is the most famous of these, known as the Patron Saint of animals and the environment, and his feast day is the setting for a “Blessing of the Animals” in many congregations around the world.
And it’s not just that we should respect and honor our brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom – we can also learn from them. They have things they can teach us. A PBS Nature show, “Wisdom from the Wild” explored this very question several years ago. “An ant is a tiny thing, a mere speck crawling upon the ground. Most people might think there is little they could learn from such a seemingly insignificant creature. But in some ancient cultures, ants were venerated as productive and wise insects. Their teamwork and perseverance enabled the tiny animals to build grand cities, leading one medieval sage to advise his followers ‘to study and learn from the under-appreciated ant when planning any great endeavor.’ Indeed, people have forever been fascinated by the wisdom they can gather by observing the animals around them. To pass along these lessons, nearly every culture has given animals a prominent place in its religion and folklore, like Ganesh, the wise elephant-headed god of India’s Hindus. Even our language is decorated with animal references, from “quiet as a mouse” and “crazy like a fox,” to “stubborn as a mule” and “eager beaver.” People “have never stopped learning from other animals,” notes Tennessee folklorist Jay Klendor. “We’re constantly figuring out how we can benefit from their habits and behavior.” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/wisdom-of-the-wild-wild-wisdom/861/)
During this season of light and love, I invite us to wake up, recognize, embrace, and learn from our experience with the rest of creation instead of seeing ourselves as something “other than.” For we are not separate from nature; we are one and the same. And we cannot live without each other. “Our very being is supported by the myriad of species that live on this planet. From the smallest microscopic virus and amoeba to the largest animal, the Blue Whale in the ocean, all creatures are linked together. And the myriad of species of plants also supports life, not only for other plants but also for other creatures. The Rain Forests of the Amazon have developed a complex interweaving of support for life there. There are plants, insects, animals we have not even yet discovered because their homes are located in the high canopy of these trees. And like the tapestry woven by the sea otter, kelp, and sea urchin, if we pull to remove one of these threads, the whole of the tapestry will come undone. And not only the tapestry but everything that uses the tapestry for its own support and survival will vanish. So it becomes an important act for us to acknowledge the animals in our lives. To honor the gifts they offer us. From the songbirds that sing outside our windows regardless of the weather to the comfort we receive from our dogs and cats.” (Fred Hammond)
In closing, I invite you to enjoy this meditative exercise ...
Think of the animal closest to your heart.
Think of the most beautiful animal you've ever seen.
Think of the smallest animal you can imagine.
Think of the largest animal you know of.
Think of the strangest-looking animal.
Think of how each of these, in its own way, contributes to that strange mystery of what we call life on planet earth. Think of how each of these has contributed to your life.
We celebrate all of the animals who share or have shared our lives and our wonder-filled planet with us. May we not forget that every human is also an animal. May we remember this as we care for one another. (Maria Kempner)
Below you'll find some spiritual offerings from other WDC members. Please let the folks know if you read their piece by leaving a thoughtful comment or review. I realize I post mostly poems, but that is because it is tough to find other types of spiritual writing on the site. If you have something you would like me to highlight, please do share it with me, thanks!
Submit an item for consideration in this newsletter!
Have an opinion on what you've read here today? Then send the Editor feedback! Find an item that you think would be perfect for showcasing here? Submit it for consideration in the newsletter!
Don't forget to support our sponsor!
Now for some comments about my last newsletter "Spiritual Newsletter (November 16, 2016)" about the Better Angels of our Nature:
From Steve adding writing to ntbk.
thanks for another good NL and for the awesome choices you presented for our reading pleasure.
Keep up the good work and write on!
Always informative newsletters that I enjoy opening and reading. Doubly blessed when I see my own poetry offering linked within!
Glad you liked it!
An election is not just a political parties competition but it is an actual partner of the respective country.. A backbone of each person of the Nation. It is like a panel of the government... A true epitome of everything. Selecting a suitable candidate to rule the Nation is really a top job rather giving priority to the elected person only. Rationalism pseudo secularism are some of the issues linked with India government. How to overcome of all these dirty policy and scams. Who will look after us. An unanswered question. It is never too late for looking for an appropriate person to rule the Nation.
Well okay then.
These last 6 weeks has been brutal. As a conservative with FB friends that run the gambit I've had to weather all kinds of name calling, rants and at times very informative dialogue. I'm ready to apologize if I posted something not factual. I have kind friends who accept our differences. One in particular patted my back and told me how much he appreciated me. I thought he was talking about my volunteering. No he said even with our not so far off differences, I never resorted to name calling or derogatory remarks about our differences. I gave up on all political posting after the election.I don't rub it in. I'm trying to keep up with the NaNo and failing.....
Taking the high road - not always easy but such a gift to offer others.
And a comment from my September newsletter on work:
From Mia - in motion
Hi Sophy. Thank you for another thoughtful article. The three responses to work at the end of the article highlight the difference between perceiving work as a means to a paycheck and a sense of a greater calling. The third recognizes his craft as his vocation, and living with meaning. He's the one who will continue to use his skills to good purpose throughout his lifetime.
Yes, work infused with spirituality has vision.
Thank you for bringing that into focus.
You are welcome - thank you for your kind words.
Please keep your comments and suggestions coming - and Happy Holidays! Sophy v.2021
To stop receiving this newsletter, click here for your newsletter subscription list. Simply uncheck the box next to any newsletter(s) you wish to cancel and then click to "Submit Changes". You can edit your subscriptions at any time.