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This is another selection from my upcoming book, "Pieces of My Heart," which I hope to have available around Valentine's Day. You are welcome to share it. Jim
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ON LEARNING FROM ANIMALS
Copyright Jim Willis 2001
tiergarten@onebox.com
http://jimwillis0.tripod.com/tiergarten/

 
Anyone who has ever worked with animals, particularly with formerly abused or neglected animals, has observed their capacity for adaptability, their ability to forget their former lives and to respond to love. Many of these animals come to us with "baggage," and after a certain amount of reliable good care, they display little evidence of their former lives. Most animals even have the capacity to adapt following a medical trauma, such as amputation of a limb, and most throw themselves back into life as successfully on three legs as they once did on four. As they age, they do what they can do until they can't do anymore.
 
Animals live in the here and now, they live for the moment. They don't spend time brooding about the past, they don't worry about the future, and except in the face of clear and present danger, they aren't concerned about their own mortality.
 
Animals are honest. When they are happy they make the appropriate noises and they play. A warning growl is a warning to be heeded. A cry of pain means genuine pain. A lick and a caress mean affection and trust. There is no duplicity in their world and what you see is what you get.
 
Animals nurture their young and their lives and world revolve around their young until their young are able to go out into the world on their own, well prepared for everything they will face. Animals respect seniority and realize that their mature members have much to teach. For many animals, their lifelong relationship with their mate will be the most important relationship they will have.
 
Animals never ignore their own needs, they achieve balance and pursue nothing to excess. When they are hungry, they hunt or forage and eat, and they always eat what is appropriate. Because they balance nutrition and exercise, they are almost always fit. When they are tired they sleep. They pay attention to their grooming and most help to groom each other, partly for hygiene, partly as a ritual of companionship. Animals divide their day and their activities according to what it must be for them, what is good for each as an individual, what is good for all as a whole. They rebel against confinement, they own the world and they want access to it.
 
There is no confusion in the animal world. A foe, prey, a friendly fellow species are all immediately apparent and most are able to drink together at a common watering hole.
 
Animals communicate constantly and effectively. Every member of their group is at all times completely informed about the moods and needs of each member, and their present situation in their environment. When they want company, they seek it; when they want to be alone, they remove themselves from the group. There are no meaningless social graces in the animal world, every movement and action has meaning. There is no insincerity. They have maximized their senses and they drink information from the world around them.
 
Animals are innocent. They don't ravage the Earth. They don't hate or plot the annihilation of another species. They don't take more than they need of resources. They don't jeopardize their own survival and they accept what they cannot change.
 
Animals don't agonize over the existence of a Creator, or how the world came to be. They are in this world, they symbolize the best of creation and all of creation beats in their breasts. Creation is for them evidence of a Creator. They are in tune, they each play a part in the rhythm of life and they are each as necessary to the music as is every instrument in a symphony.
 
One species has risen to the position of conductor - the Human, and like a symphony conductor, we face in the opposite direction from the musicians.
 
Rather than adapting and surviving, we've filled our vocabulary with "I can't," "I won't." We live lives of regret and bemoan our pasts. We don't live in the present, we exist in a mind-numbing condition of stress and second-hand information. We worry about the future, about dying, to the point that we no longer know how to live. We need outside sources of entertainment because we've forgotten how to entertain ourselves. We create imaginary worlds because we can't cope with the real world. We can hate solely on the basis of appearances without understanding the inner being. We aren't very good at expressing our needs and we are blind to recognizing needs in others. We give confusing signals - we say "yes," when we mean "no." We say "good morning" and we don't mean it. We lie to ourselves and we hide our true feelings from others.
 
We don't get enough sleep. We either eat too much of everything, or not enough of what our bodies require. We are poisoning ourselves with chemicals, preservatives, antibiotics and hormones hidden in our diets. We are raping the Earth. We spray every square inch of our plots of land with fertilizers and pesticides. We have wiped out whole species of animals intentionally, and others through sheer ignorance, and Earth's ecology hangs precariously in the balance. We are cruel to animals.
 
We don't live by our senses, we've subjugated them to a senseless degree. We don't listen to our instincts, we use prejudicial reasoning. We deny our animal nature, creation is something we control and manipulate, and we don't recognize our relationship with the rest of creation, or that the Creator lives in us, because we've set ourselves apart. We use the excuse that modern life no longer allows us to be who we once were, when we know that we have the power to make life anything we wish it to be.
 
Perhaps our greatest sin is what we do to our young, who still begin life in innocence. We ignore them, force them to fend for themselves. We don't teach them the lessons they will need to know in order to live successfully. We fill our days and lives with the wrong values, we have no time for ourselves or our children, and we hand the children adult responsibilities before they are prepared for them. We teach greed and selfishness. Drugs and addictions have become our way of dealing with the stress of the lives we create, and they've become the lessons we teach our young. We teach them to repeat our mistakes. Odd that we could do that to children and still live in a culture of youthfulness where the aged are not respected for their wisdom, they are forgotten.
 
It is not too late to learn lessons from the animals. Be good to yourself. Play more. Sleep more. Bask in the sun. Live each day fully and balanced. Be honest and sincere, tell the members of your group what you need and ask them about what they need. Touch...hold a hand, feel a leaf, let the stream run over your fingers. Smell, listen, see the world around you. Arrange your lives around nurturing your young. Respect and love your mate. Learn what the old have to teach. Let go of greed. Protect and stop poisoning your environment. Eat only when you are hungry and only what you should eat. Adapt and survive. Realize that you are not alone and accept that you have something to contribute to the pack. Turn off the artificial noise, the mechanical drone and be here now, in this world. It is a beautiful world and you are a part of creation, and in your heart beats all that the Creator intended.
 
The world is waiting for us to get back in step with the music, to fearlessly turn our backs to the musicians and to face in the same direction as they. To once again gather at the same watering hole.