When you're lucky enough to live cheek by jowl with wildlife, it's easier to remember that we all belong to Animal Clan. That we share this planet with other beings who are really very like us. I'm all about respecting and learning from plants and stones, but our kinship with other animals defines us, fraught as it is with the history of 'dominion' and abuse.
Part of that tragedy is, the further we distance ourselves from the true lives of our fellow animals, the further we stray from our own species. Aggression against animals is linked inextricably to similar behaviour around humans, while the act of opening our hearts and minds to even just respect other species seems to create compassionate people*.
We work better together, us warm-bloodeds.
There's little doubt that as we deny the freedoms and characteristics of other species, seeing them simply as a resource with no feelings, thoughts or emotions, so we dehumanise ourselves. And as our lives change, so fast, so much, with the development of technology - much of it wonderful and desirable - so we're losing sight of our roots. Our place among the other animals.
As I think about who, what and where I want to be as I get older, who I have always been and can now express fully, remembering my animal identity is central. I'm planning 'rehumanise, don't dehumanise'.
I wonder what the description of the human would be as a spirit animal. If a squirrel had a human come to him in a dream, offering guidance on creating an abundance of winter food, what qualities would he attribute to that person? I can well imagine being totally bummed out as a badger if you were to go into the dreamtime, down in your sett, and journey to a furless two-legged. I think I'd be tempted to lie. "Yeah, no, I totally saw a wolf. Like three times and everything. Seriously."
But at our best we might actually be a little bit cool - apart from the furless bit because that's so not cool. I think the old Wild Google might throw up some pages on humans that describe us as, hmmm...
- physically awkward, but brave and risk-taking all the same
- a tendency to cling to childlike behaviours
- capable of great gentleness
- defends family at own risk
- highly developed humour
- intelligent problem-solver
- good mimic
- highly spiritual
Let's stick with those positives. And hope for
- looks like David Tennant
*I'm not oblivious to the wounded rescue worker who hates all people. Goodness knows they have to deal with cruelty that I could not face. Ever. My true heroes are people who step up into these situations and still don't give up on the human race.