Animals, Community, and Spiritual Lessons Cont.

We are meditating on what animals have to teach us about spirituality and community.  And it is plenty.  In yesterday’s DM we considered seven lessons.  Today we consider several more.

Short video showcasing the wisdom that animals teach us. Originally posted to YouTube by The School of Life.

8. That climbing Jacob’s ladder is unnatural.  Have you ever known an animal (other than the two-legged one) who liked to climb ladders?  They know better.  They know their place and our place is on the earth, eye to eye with the rest of the gifted creature of the land and sea. 

I once saw a bear climb a staircase in a circus when men made him do so.  He was so afraid and so not-at-home when he got to the top stair that there, in front of us all, he peed from fright and discomfort.  The audience laughed at this but the bear knew–there was nothing at the top of the ladder!

Chimpanzee photographed at Wellington Zoo in New Zealand. Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash.

9. Humor.  Animals bring humor into our lives, a radical, celebrative awareness of dialectic and paradox.  Animals, I am convinced, love to make us human animals laugh.  Animals are truly holy in their way, for all full humor is reflection of the divine good humor.  In his excellent study on wolves, Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez, tells the story how he observed a wolf spend over an hour playing with a piece of dry caribou hide, tossing it in the air as we would frisbees.  He saw wolves chase ducks amidst splashing of wings and water—all in fun.  My dog once caught a squirrel—not to eat—but to play with.  Though the squirrel was quite traumatized by my dog’s invitation, he nevertheless went away completely unharmed. 

10. Silent Dignity.  Animals have a sense of their own worth and dignity—a pride at their own unique existence that subtly suggests that no one every preached to them about original sin.  As a result they appear at home with silence, with themselves and with solitude.  I have been amazed in recent years to learn how many animals come out to watch the sun set, for example.  Ducks, birds, dogs and God know how many smaller creatures have a contemplative side to them that the human species of late has all but forgotten.

Short video on the importance of “rewilding” produced and posted originally on YouTube by WoodlandsTV.

I once saw a dog marching with dignity up a hill across from my house with one leg missing.  He did not complain, he did not blame his condition on sin, he was simply carrying on with his life.  I admire that dog and have not forgotten his way of living in our world.

These ten aspects of sound spiritual direction to be learned from animals are only an introduction to a weighty and much neglected subject.  It is clear that God has blessed our animals and blessed us through the animals.  And God requests of us that we in turn thank them back.  For “the Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works” (Ps. 145).

Adapted from A Spirituality Named Compassion pp. 166-168.

Banner Image: Panda having a snack. Photo by Sid Balachandran on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Which of these ten lessons from animals speak most profoundly to you?  What further lessons would you add to this list?

Recommended Reading

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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2 thoughts on “Animals, Community, and Spiritual Lessons Cont.”

  1. Avatar

    Years ago I had a cat that loved to play with a wool ball.
    When I went into labour with my first child the cat diverted me for several midnight hours (before we left for the hospital) by playing with that ball. He was amazing, grabbing it with his fore paws, tossing it in the air, then racing across the room to bat it before it hit the ground, bounce it back up and catch it again on the other side of the room, He was a one-cat team of feline Haarlem Globetrotters. I was nervous and in pain and my husband was probably more tressed than I was – but that cat had me In tears of laughter.
    Feline compassion.

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