Last month I talked about some of the kind things we can do for animals in the winter months; things that we can also do year round. This month, in order to set the groundwork for future musings, I talk about what Claim Humane, Reinventing Our Relationship with Animals (an inquiry into no longer using animals as utility or resource) is, why I think it is an important conversation and how we can set ourselves up to be receptive to and engaged in it.
I believe that how we are treating animals today is an outrage and is an offense to creation. I believe that in today’s modern world we do not need to use animals in order to thrive, let alone exist, and so I view our current use of them as an act of unreserved want or greed. From downed farm animals to eye-irritancy tests to rodeos to trolling the oceans…we are treating animals as if they are non-living beings. I believe that we have infringed upon animals so severely and for so long that it is time to leave them alone. Our duty now is to restore what we have taken from them.
The reason I became an animal advocate (in the early 1980’s) is because I found how we perceive and treat animals to be exceedingly prejudiced. Once I became involved with organizations whose missions are to propel humanity forward I started to wonder if we humans could reach our full potential, our full consciousness, if we are to continue to use animal as utility and resource.
For many of us this is an entirely new conversation. It is far-reaching and it will take time to fully grasp the concept and the need for it. In order for this conversation to move forward we need to allow ourselves to constructively “be with” what is confronting, what is inconvenient, what is uncomfortable. We need to allow ourselves the space to grapple with our unexamined assumptions. We need to be transparent about our fears of losing what we have come to love and on which we depend.
When we look at what lies behind what we find to be confronting, inconvenient, and uncomfortable, when we fully realize the impact these practices ACTUALLY have on animals it is very easy for us to move into shame, blame and guilt. This will undoubtedly prove to be futile and so what there is to do is to create new questions that are inspiring; questions that boldly explore how we might creatively evolve towards no longer using animals as utility and resource.
So how do we do this? How do we reinvent our relationships with animals? How do we move forward with such a massive undertaking? With great intention, unsurpassed ingenuity and boundless compassion!
These new questions that we are asking (as individuals, as communities, as states, as nations, and as a species) are bound to be difficult ones. And in asking these difficult questions it will benefit us to do what Rainer Marie Rilke suggested to a young poet who had questions about “being in life”: “…I would like to beg you…as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
I think we can use this notion of “loving the questions themselves and living the questions now” to support us in “being with” the harsh realities of how we currently view and use animals. If we fully allow ourselves to “be with” the pain and suffering that we have subjected animals to, we would end up in a puddle of bloody tears – not an effective state-of-being for implementing transformation. AND – we need to touch upon this pain and allow it to be the seed of inspiration for this transformation.
One thing we can do to help us constructively “live these questions, love these questions” is to recognize that because each one of us was born into these current-day beliefs, paradigms and practices we, as individuals, are not responsible for the history behind the rise of these. AND in “living the questions and loving the questions” we can recognize, embrace and be inspired by the fact the each one of us, through actions both small and large, can profoundly influence how we move forward in transforming our relationship with animals.
As we come to realize how the paradigms we are currently living in no longer align with our values we can begin making commitments and significant changes in our day-to-day lives so that we no longer contribute to these practices. Conceptually this is easy. Logistically, not so easy – because our global infrastructure is not prepared to make such a shift. Nor are the minds of the majority of human’s. However, if we believe in unlimited human potential, then nothing is impossible. After all, we created the world we live in and we have the ability to re-create it. We (as individuals and as a species) are the ones who limit ourselves. We are the ones who set the confines in which we live. We can break through these if we commit our intentions, our hearts and our resources to this.
How long will this take? As long as we, as a species, decide it will take.
If we embrace our excitement about the prospects of living in a world based on an entirely new paradigm that day, [far in the future that we live our way into the answer] just might be closer than we can now imagine.
This is the essence of Claim Humane: Reinventing Our Relationship with Animals. This conversation can take place in facilitated circles, at home, on the streets, at parties, while waiting in line at stores, virtually anywhere your voice can be heard.