I've seen the process of older people going into a zone where they're not connected with this world any more. I don't mean like a helium balloon set loose to float into the clouds, rather an unwillingness to keep up with all the new gadgets after a lifetime of keeping up. There comes a time it doesn't matter who has a new book out or who has a new album out or what's the latest. The latest is of no concern any more. I don't even want to hear about it. This may be what is meant by the world passing us by. I recall an aunt lighting into me on the day Conway Twitty died, because I didn't know about it. Hadn't listened to the news that day. She assessed that I need to get out of these mountains and into the real world. Real world? The real world of television? The real world of pop radio? I get all that here in the mountains, and a better range of choices than any one place in the Flatland. Auntie and I had a go-round in that phone conversation. When she asked if I like Conway Twitty, I said no, but I appreciate him as a musician. She lectured me that I can't appreciate something I don't like.
Yesterday, I was asked to explain how "evolution" says we came from monkeys. I explained we're one of the great apes, our branch in the tree of evolution is between the gorilla and the chimpanzee. Then I was told it's bullshit. Whatever. I'm not arguing that one. It's like the saying, you had to be there. I've thought a little bit about it since then. The fundamentalist refusal to believe we "came from monkeys" is based in a certain belief-system's way of seeing that overlooks almost everything. In Christendom we're taught that animals are unconscious, and especially devoid of a soul. Christendom says only humans have souls. It's only the forebrain we have that the animals don't have. The forebrain is not the soul. If God is love, then the soul is love. I've seen too much love in animals I have known to say they don't have a soul. It's an absurd distinction to make. Love is love, no matter how it manifests. One of my great learnings in the mountains has been how much animals love us.
I see each of the dogs and cats that has lived here with me as a step up the staircase of learning that the four-leggeds have tremendous capacity for love, both giving and receiving. That a dog will protect its human unto its own demise is an expression of love. I even feel shame at how little I understood the animal world. I didn't have anything to go by. The culture I've lived in all my life regards animals about the same as fence posts you have to feed. When I began to discover emotions in dogs, and thinking, I felt like I was seeing deep in the unknown. Even doubted what I was seeing. I have watched both dogs and cats think. I have seen them figure things out. Sadie, the first dog, I saw barking at the end of a hollow tree trunk like a ground squirrel or something ran up there. She barked and fussed over the opening at the end. She stopped and looked at the situation, and after assessing her intent, she tore into the trunk about where she though It was hiding. She ripped and tore at the thin wood with her teeth, opening a great hole in the side of the old log.
Same dog, Sadie, I have seen stalk a groundhog that was maybe 30 feet from its hole. Dog was about same distance from hole as groundhog, a different direction, creeping in the tall grass toward the hole. When she reached the place she saw she could get to the hole before the groundhog, she jumped up and started running full speed toward the hole. Groundhog saw her and took off running toward the hole. Just before the groundhog reached the hole, dog hit groundhog with the top of her head running full speed. Groundhog rolled over and was scrambling to its feet when dog turned around and sank her teeth into the back of the groundhog's neck, picked it up, snapped its neck and groundhog was dead. Dog took groundhog to a place she knew the ground to be soft, dug a hole, pushed the groundhog in with her nose, and covered the groundhog with dirt pushed onto it with her nose. She started burying the groundhogs she killed after seeing me bury a groundhog she'd carried under the house to her dog den. She watched me bury it and from then on buried every one she killed.
Sadie came to me when she was 3 years old and already named. I didn't want to change her name, though I didn't really resonate with it. Still, it was her name. She was a mix of an airdale and a foxdog. Sadie came to love me far more than I knew. I didn't even notice it was love for several years. And I realized after she died that I hadn't even noticed her love for me. She was a dog. Dogs don't love. That was the wall, not believing it. With next dog, I learned to honor the love. With Aster, I opened up and let the love flow between us. I studied the love in Aster. She could figure things out too. I've just now been overwhelmed by emotion, remembering my friends of many years, what good friends they were. I'm like in the song about Mr Bo Jangles, "his dog up and died, after 20 years he still grieves." With every one of them, I've asked myself, would I die for my four-legged friend as readily as friend would die for me. The answer is always no. And I feel undeserving of their love.
No, it's not just love between humans that "counts." Love is love. When a child loves a gerbil, it's love. Caterpillar is the last of my four-legged friends. By now, I have learned how to receive the love, aware that love is what it is. If the soul is the seat of love in us, then Caterpillar has a soul, as have all the animals I've lived with. They didn't have any problem knowing about love. I was the one that didn't know. It must be frustrating for them to love us so much and it not be noticed. I've learned what complete "people" dogs and cats are, and by extending that I can see that monkeys must be a lot of fun to know. If we could see a monkey or a chimp from God's way of seeing, we'd be very much surprised by their intelligence and would see no shame in calling them ancestors. They lack the ego that keeps us tied up in knots and committed to self-destructive behavior. It's the ego in us that separates us from the four-leggeds and ashamed to call a monkey ancestor. It's the human arrogant expression of ego that gives the animal world consideration as commodity only.