Thursday, January 22, 2009

All my relations

Recently a video showed up at about 2 Burmese fishermen who survived at sea for 25 days off of only rainwater and fish regurgitated by seabirds. The video can be viewed here:

I am sharing it here because it exemplifies the typical western attitude of disbelief in the face of stories of other animals helping humans to survive.

This is in great contrast to the animist world view, where animals, plants, fungi, stones, stars and rivers are brothers and sisters all working together in cooperation to create a seamless and harmonious working system from which all benefit and grow. There are many stories told by tribal people of animals such as wolves, bears, dolphins, birds and even ants helping people to survive in times of dire need. In a world were all are working as part of the same community, such things are not really unheard of nor even terribly surprising. At least to people with a direct relationship to the living world.

Such stories are absent in our culture, or if they appear are generally labeled as fantasies of "primitive minds" and children, who we are told are both largely ignorant of the world around them. After all, our sciences tell us that nature is run largely by competition and violence. Better yet, animals are driven merely by instincts and can not act outside of the boundaries of what we believe to be the limitations of their behaviors, which are already pre-determined by the genes they carry. If an observation is ever made of something that might even imply to be outside of these limitations, we so easily write them off as being unlikely or random. As if animals were robots which for a moment had a glitch in their systems, and then returned to "normal" working function.

Even the meeting of an animal in the wild is to us a largely random event, to which we usually ascribe no great meaning other than perhaps as yet another reminder of the greatness and uniqueness of us as a species as a contrast to the other species of lower intelligence or lesser evolutionary developmental stage. We see animals so often not as they are, but as mere mirrors through which we can look at our own egos.

Our assumptions about our place at the pinnacle of evolution serves only to push us farther away from the relatives all around us.

From Herons and kin

To an animist, every element of the natural world, whether animal, plant, fungi or some other form, is an other-than-human person. Encounters with these others are taken very seriously and observed very carefully. Since these other-than-human people are seen as equals, there is no room for ideas about or feelings of superiority.

All the persons, human and other-than-human, have a role to play in the web of life that is flowing all around us and through us. How can one say that 1 piece of that puzzle is more or less important, than another?