Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011.06.15 Human Animals?

The editor’s page of the June issue of Presence, journal of Spiritual Directors International, began with an invitation to complete this sentence: THE HUMAN BEING IS THE ONLY ANIMAL THAT......

My first thought was “believes in Godde.” Or, in sophisticated Neibuhrian language, “can self-transcend.”

My next thought was “thinks s/he is not an animal” and I thought this second was more gut-wrenchingly honest.

I don’t know if animals believe in Godde or not; nor can I know if they self-transcend, behave on more than baseline instinct for survival.

My daughter Jill has always loved animals, secretly more than people. She talks to them and tells me they communicate to her or at least she can understand them in her gifted way of loving them. And she has lots of them.

Animals, particularly horses, dogs, cats and certain apes demonstrate intelligence and awareness of heart. Once a horse followed his owner to a lakeside, nudging at her all the way with his velvety nose and imploring with a low whinny that sufficed for words of life-giving compassion—enough to dissuade the young owner from her intent to take her own life.

And I have watched squirrels patiently give their little ones fence-top skittering and nest compilation lessons. And birds place small Blue Jays in the driveway each waiting their turn for their own personal flying lesson.

There is a continuum of creation not a rank order. Creator God is in all of it to the same degree. There is no spiritual hierarchy as human beings imagine. It is all good.


The human being might resist the temptation to lift the phrase in the Genesis creation story that has YHWH/God exclaim VERY GOOD about humanity. Get humble.

P.S. The Presence editor suggested this completion: “The human being is the only animal that can learn to live with the mystery of not-knowing.” Another possibility.