Friday, March 30, 2012
THE SOULS OF ANIMALS
Driving to town this morning I passed a loading pen with 15, thereabouts, young black cows ambling about. I noticed my heart felt a warm loving sensation. It is what I feel when I see cows, a loving warmth in my heart. It is the same feeling as when I hear my cardinal that visits the birdfeeder daily singing his distinctly redbird song. I see the same pair of downy woodpeckers pecking tree trunks the other side of the window. I can take pictures of them through the window--incentive to keep the windows clean. I have a warm feeling for the birds I feed and see every day. Seeing the pair of red squirrels darting about, I feel the same in my heart as when I look into the next room and see Caterpillar on her bed looking at me. It's the warm feeling of a friend. It's that same feeling that tells me who my friends are, the people I feel that warmth of kinship with the god (or spirit) within.
The birds, the cattle, the squirrels, the cats, the dogs, the horses are animated by the spirit within, the same as we are. We, however, have mind, which we believe makes us superior in the hierarchy of evolution to the beings without forebrains. It's kind of hard to call us superior, considering that before we came along, all the animals and birds and fish were doing fine. The Garden was self-sufficient. The hairless ape evolved a forebrain and started figuring things out with mind, which the other animals could only do a little bit, when at all. I think everybody has noticed that dogs tend not to move things. They see that objects can be moved, because they see us move and carry things all the time. But they never seem to get it that they can move something. There are plenty of exceptions to that general rule. One day my dog Sadie was chasing a chipmunk (ground squirrel) and it ran up a hollow tree trunk, a small one, maybe ten inches across.
Dog barked at the opening, clawed at it and barked. After awhile she stopped. She studied the log, looked it over. When she had it figured out, she tore into it about 3 feet up the trunk, ripped the old paper-like outside layer of the tree apart with her teeth, ripped and tore at that tree, shredding it tearing at it, spitting out wood and tearing into it again. She never found the groundsquirrel, but she splintered the lower part of the tree. Other times I'd seen her do something after taking a minute or two to figure something out and go at it. Still, she was never one to move something out of her way or for any reason. Only after thinking about it for a bit, figuring something out was the only way she could alter a situation by moving an object. In Konrad Lorenz's autobiography, he told of a Russian psychological experiment with a gorilla. They hung a banana from above just out of reach of the ape jumping for it. They put a wooden box in a corner. The ape tried to get the banana and gave up. It sat and thought a moment, stood up, carried the box to the floor under the banana, stood on the box and plucked the banana by hand.
That's awfully good cognition to what is believed generally about animals, that they're "dumb," which is only true in that they can't talk. As I've lived with animals, worked with animals, or pre-humans, I have found them intelligent far beyond what I'd been trained to believe by church, school, parents, all forms of authority throughout my life. I live in a world where almost no one recognizes that the only difference between us and them is they don't have thumbs that work like ours, and they don't have language. I've learned they have language, only our minds won't slow down to allow us to pay attention to them. They communicate among themselves adequately, yet they can't communicate with us at all. They speak with their eyes and actions. We do too, but don't notice. Language has deadened our senses to their forms of communication. We have lost the ability to understand their ways of communication. We've given communication over to language.
As I have spent my adult life informally studying my pets and the ways of animals in my world. I've learned how to connect using eye contact. I've learned the ones I live with eventually learn my mind, can interpret my sentences, evidently by seeing the images of the words in my mind. Every time I have spoken verbally to one of my cats or dogs, telling them something I want them to know, I see in a very short time they do exactly as I said. When the cats were young, a few years old, Caterpillar pounced on Tapo every day, making her mad and keeping her mad. One day, holding Tapo, I explained to her that when Caterpillar pounces, Tapo needs only to roll onto her back and rip Caterpillar's guts out with the claws of her back feet. Within a few minutes Caterpillar pounced on Tapo. Tapo rolled onto her back and tore at Caterpillar's soft belly with her claws and Caterpillar leaped about 3 feet and ran for it. It's that deal of them being ready when I arrive home from being out of the house.
All the animals that have lived with me through the years have come to know my mind. After Sadie the foxdog, Airedale mix had been on the other side for 6 years, had visited me in dreams 4 times, I met Aster. In her eyes I saw Sadie. She came to me at the very same spot Sadie came to me earlier. As I lived with Aster, I learned right away she knew my habits and my thoughts. I never had to train her to what I expect of a dog. From the start she knew my ways. I only had to correct her about chasing cars one time. Had a talk with her and she got it. The species arrogance among us humans toward all the rest of the world of the living is even worse than American arrogance toward the poor. America doesn't mind killing the poor and killing an animal is the same as digging a hole with a shovel. No big deal. I believe it is our arrogance toward life forms we dismiss because they can't talk and they don't have any money. Our species arrogance is the very same as the arrogance of the rich toward the poor. They are visible, but seldom appreciated as sentient beings.
Since I've come to see the god (the spirit) within, it's difficult seeing a possum splattered in the road, any roadkill. It's painful to see cattle in a truck on the way to market. For me, it is the same as seeing people in a truck on the way to the slaughterhouse. I see a truck on the interstate with square, single-unit chicken cages, one hen apiece, stacked high on a flatbed trailer. I call them rolling chicken prisons. All those hens have a life sentence of confinement to a cage slightly larger than her body so she can only eat, shit and lay eggs. I tell myself that in the thousand years of peace after this period of time we're in the humans will maybe come down out of the species arrogance, even arrogance toward one another. Maybe in that time we'll slow down the rate of killing and destroying we do collectively. I see the people of the thousand years of peace conscious of giving the earth a chance to heal, to allow life on the land and in the sea. To allow life. That, in itself, is the nature of peace, to allow life.