We are animals. This is a fact. I’m not talking about the kind of we-are-animals-yeah-yeah-now-somebody-get-a-shoe-to-squash-that-spider. But rather that swell of recognition that boils up from your gut when you stop to gaze into the inky wells of another creature and know at your core you are brethren.
I have always held reverence for the whole of nature. The way Earth spins, sunrise to sunset, and the way lava and water carve and mold the landscape, and the way trees and plants push out from the soil and stand next to us with silent confidence. Somehow the balance of heat, rainfall, oxygen and a trillion other components is so precise in its perfection that life doesn’t just subsist, it flourishes. The entire system supports animals in a rich array of shapes and sizes. Sea turtles. Bees. Whales. Us. Compassion for any animal is a direct reflection of our gratitude for this wondrous world.
How and why we are here can be debated, but the sheer brilliance of the world and delicate complexity upon which we depend cannot. Having this big picture view of life even as a little girl, I could never seen myself as better or more valuable than another animal and I always struggled with the idea that we were created a notch above the rest. It’s true, we humans have unique and enviable abilities. Our calculating minds are a true wonder. But are they better on the universal sliding scale than, say, ants’ ability to detect chemical compounds by touch? Or birds’ ability to navigate thousands of miles by an internal compass? We’re all smart in our own ways. Must we compete? I prefer to see myself as part of a larger biological family, with a lot of very talented brothers and sisters.
We are equals, the animals and I. Certain readers may find this notion unsettling but I trust others will relate. As biomes and beasts disappear alongside trustworthly air and water, I venture to suggest our earthly salvation will require an expanding of self to fully embrace the interconnectedness of all life. As an NPR caller named Shane said after growing up around bonobos and chimps, our closest evolutionary kin, “The membrane between me and the rest of the biological continuum is really porous”.
Indeed, Shane. Porous indeed.
photo above from www.majorlycool.com