Category: Animals and the earth


Poem: Cliffs of snow

raven-silhouette-and-storm-clouds public domain pictures.net

 

 

In the beginning

 

And the ending

 

And the beginning

 

Stand unbroken

 

The chimes of the mists

 

Of evermore, where the raven,

 

Black king of prophecy,

 

Of shining forests,

 

Greets

 

The rain and the sun,

 

And awaits

 

His mate

 

On the juniper heights,

 

Hearing the humming croak

 

Of the frog in the creek

 

And all the crowds

 

Of tadpoles

 

That awoke

 

In the sands,

 

In the sparkling rains.

 

Later,

 

The wise

 

Long-eared owl

 

Walks in the snow,

 

In the midnight of winter,

 

Silent,

 

As she has always done,

 

Remembering the bubbling lakes of spring

 

Where crystal flowers flame

 

In the sunrise,

 

Where Ganesha’s smile

 

Illuminates

 

The fateful dark; where the coyote’s howl

 

Sings a lullaby, a gentle

 

Enchantment, laughing, sly.

 

Where the broken bridge

 

Of time bends along

 

The rushing waters of the gorge, transient,

 

Leaving.

 

Yet the presence of eternity remains

 

In the eyes – at once meek

 

And brave – of the young cottontail.

 

On a silver-winged hill,

 

Under a bright cowl of numinous clouds,

 

The ravens

 

Call

 

Still

 

In the trail

 

Of the rains

 

0f a distant day.

 

Until

 

The gold feet

 

Of the setting sun

 

Run

 

Over long roads through the juniper trees –

 

Through the scattered scrub oak.

 

White cliffs, gateways to eternity,

 

You who bear the scars

 

Of rain and winds and storms, who

 

Give earth blessings,

 

Who speak silently through

 

Ancient seas long gone – where you were born,

 

Through awareness beyond our own,

 

You talk with the stars

 

From a far ancient country, long worn

 

Away,

 

And yet to be again;

 

When

 

You recall the song

 

Of the mountain bluebird

 

Who had no name

 

The song no longer heard,

 

Sung long ago,

 

In mystic nights

 

That left no trace.

 

Now, after a while,

 

Tall,

 

On a high ridge

 

The pine tree

 

Stands,

 

Unafraid, in the ice and snow

 

Singing still,

 

Under the haunting moon of grace,

 

A moon of many petals,

 

Beyond the tides that rise and fall,

 

On the plateau above, he stands

 

And writes with fire in the sky

 

On a clear and wind-swept day.

 

 

©Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

 

Photo Credit:

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=261251&picture=raven-silhouette-and-storm-clouds

 

 

One 1600px-Tongass_National_Forest_4

By Sharon St Joan

 

The earth is not just a physical thing. The same is true of the trees, the flowers, the clouds in the sky, the mountains, the rivers, the valleys, the oceans. And, of course, all the animals.

 

The other day I listened to a spokesperson for a major environmental organization explaining on national television the reasons why it’s not a good idea to log the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. I’m not going to give his name because I’m about to criticize him – even though he spoke well and gave good, rational arguments. But I felt there was an essential element missing. I don’t honestly remember all the points that he made, but they may have gone something like this. The Tongass National Forest puts a significant percentage of the earth’s oxygen into the air. It is the largest temperate forest in the world. It is a treasure for many people who visit it. It protects many wild species by providing their habitat.

 

During the interview, footage was shown of this incredibly spectacular land – tall cliffs covered in green forests rising up out of clear lakes.

 

I do absolutely completely understand that in trying to defend old growth forests from logging and other destruction, it is useful to appeal to concerns that are meaningful to most people. It is helpful to stress the importance that the forest has for human health – replenishing the earth’s oxygen – it is also much loved and enjoyed by visitors. It is the essential habitat for so many animals, and wild animals – really all of them – are quite endangered. The forest is useful, it is loved, it is rare now on the planet, and it is important to take care of it. Absolutely!

 

Two 1600px-Brussels_Zonienwoud

 

A missing element

 

But there is a missing element, which is a very key element. The forest – quite apart from its value to humans and other animal species – also has an intrinsic value all its own. Its value does not lie solely in its usefulness to human beings or in its beauty as perceived by humans. The forest is not just a thing. It is not an object – and this is true of the entire earth. The trees, the rivers, the cliffs, the lakes, the sagebrush, the moon and the sun overhead, the clouds, the birds – these are not just physical things. They have a spirit.

 

So, what is the point of actually saying this – of making sure that we mention it often, whenever possible? Of speaking up, without being intimidated or being afraid of being ridiculed? After all, it wouldn’t be the first or the last time that people laugh. As long as we do not mention what we see as the truth, then we are ceding the most important point to the side that wishes to objectify the world of nature. We are tacitly agreeing that the natural world really only has value if it is beneficial to us as humans – or has value only by preserving habitat for wild animals so that we may go and visit them or at least watch them on film.

 

But ceding this point is not right. It is not correct.

 

Protecting the earth isn’t all about us as humans.

 

It is the objectification of the natural world by human beings – especially in modern times, and especially in the west (where this worldview originated) — that is the root cause and the justification for the destruction of the earth which is taking place all around us. It is our collective alienation from the natural world that gives some the excuse basically to kill nature. We’re not just talking about climate change – though it is that as well – it is also the very direct, immediate destruction through industrialization and pollution – drowning the earth and the sea in chemicals – and removing the sand that holds water that prevents drought.

 

A great many people, myself among them, feel that all the beings of the earth have a spirit and a spiritual dimension – not only the animals, but also all the trees and the plants, and even the rocks, the cliffs, and the oceans. They are not just physical things. This is not as odd a concept as it might seem. Virtually all tribal peoples and all ancient peoples saw the earth this way. It is only the modern world that differs from this age-old, traditional view. It is the modern world that is the outlier – and perhaps not coincidentally, it is the modern world that is dismantling all the life of the planet more rapidly than any society that has gone before us. So, are we modern people as wise as we think we are? Perhaps we are simply more decadent, and farther removed from the basic truths of existence.

 

717px-Urban_Coyote,_Bernal_Heights

 

 

An older, wiser view

 

It is well-known that Native Americans viewed all of nature as alive and as having a spirit. Among some of these stories and legends, known and not-so-well-known – the Abenaki nation of Maine see the drum as the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The Munsee of Delaware tell of great thunderbirds that cause storms and lightning. The Shoshone people of western states tell stories about the trickster coyote, and his elder brother, the wolf, who is a creator hero. The north wind, known as Winter or Biboon, is the spirit of winter for the northeast woodland tribes, like the Iroquois. The Paiutes of Utah have a story about a mountain sheep who became a star. In other words, all of creation is seen as alive and sentient. There is no sharp distinction between animals and rocks or lakes or other geological features – all are considered living beings. This appears to be true of all tribal people everywhere – from the Americas to the Pacific islands to the native peoples of Australia.

 

Furthermore, it is not only tribal people who see the world in this way – virtually every early civilization and every civilization which still has some connection with its roots also recognize a spiritual dimension as belonging to the earth and to every aspect of nature – from the ancient Egyptian, and on into modern times – to the Chinese and Japanese, just to mention a few.

 

The most striking example is the complex, intricate beliefs of Hinduism, which go back perhaps 10,000 years and which, even today are as alive as ever. The moon, the sun, and the wind are among the millions of gods. Every major Hindu god has an animal vahana or vehicle. The rivers are goddesses and the mountains, generally, are gods. All things have life. And, as is stated in the earliest writings, all the gods and all that exists are ultimately part of one God, Brahman. A deep reverence for nature is intertwined with the Hindu worldview.

 

In March of 2017, The Guardian reported that a court in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand had accorded the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers the status of personhood, citing as precedent the declaration by the New Zealand government of the Whanganui River, long revered by the Maori people, as a living entity. This modern legal recognition of the personhood of rivers is in accordance with the perception of many people all over the world, today, as always in the past.

 

It is exclusively a modern, western viewpoint to assume that the world of nature is composed of objects or things – that rocks, rivers, mountains have no spiritual nature, and even in the western world, this may be a minority view. Many everyday people acknowledge the spiritual nature of the living world around us. Sadly, it is those who seek to exploit the natural world that talk about it as inanimate, lifeless, insentient – and existing only as “natural resources” to be gobbled up by mining, oil and gas, fracking, and every form of destruction and desecration.

 

River in Karnataka, IndiaDSC01419

 

Intrinsic value

 

For those of us for whom the earth and all the beings of the earth, have an intrinsic value, a profound beauty in and of themselves – the more we say this clearly, the more accessible that view will be to more people – and the more we all will be able to see plainly that the Tongass Forest, for example, is far from being just a resource to be devoured by humans. It is a living entity filled with spirits and presences, and astonishing beauty, which as humans we can only begin to see and appreciate.

 

Among environmentalists, all perspectives that value the earth are very much needed – scientific facts, legal arguments, and also views that take into account the benefits to humanity. Our lives and happiness do indeed depend on the natural world.

 

Still, the many millions, billions, of us across the planet, who see the natural world and the earth as spirit, as well as physical, should not be afraid to say so. As is so often quoted, “We belong to the earth; the earth does not belong to us.” The earth is Mother Earth and is a living being – far older, greater, and more worthy of reverence than the human race could ever be.

 

Standing up for the essential life-essence of the earth is a missing key in the fight to protect and preserve our fast-vanishing planet. We who see the earth, and all of nature, as spectacularly alive with an intrinsic beauty and validity must speak up and not be silent.

 

It is our alienation, as humans, from the natural world that leads to its destruction, and it is our re-connection with the earth that can hold the prospect of some help for all the myriads of beautiful, majestic, innocent beings with whom we share the planet. So, we must see clearly, and speak bravely.

 

Photo Credits:

 

One) Mark Brennan from Oakton, Virginia, United States of America / Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Tongass National Forest

 

Two) Donarreiskoffer/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Beech trees in the Sonian Forest, Belgium.

 

Three) Frank Schulenburg/ Wikipedia / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. / Coyote in San Francisco.

 

Four) Sharon St Joan / River in Karnataka, India, near Mysore.

 

 

To learn more:

 

http://www.native-languages.org/legends.htm

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/21/ganges-and-yamuna-rivers-granted-same-legal-rights-as-human-beings

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

 

 

 

The Great White Egret

 

By the smoke-ringed rains,

 

Where a time that never really was,

 

Of butterflies

 

And bees

 

That buzz,

 

Begins,

 

A tall bird stood

 

Who came from the forest

 

Of alder trees

 

From the winding wood,

 

Alone, wandering,

 

Seeking a way of speaking,

 

Remembering the tales of an ancient day,

 

Forgetting the present,

 

Standing still in the wind,

 

Watching the fish for a moment,

 

In the sea, leaping

 

In the sunlit sea,

 

In the lights that danced,

 

Star-finned,

 

Hearing the distant call

 

Of dolphins,

 

And the laughter of otters

 

Who lived in the bay,

 

In the haunted lagoon,

 

Among the phantom ships,

 

So tall,

 

With opalescent sails.

 

But no one is there,

 

Where

 

The seas on the shore so gently fall

 

Where the melodies of the moon

 

Encircle the stones that arise

 

Where the fairies

 

Sang and spun their magic spells

 

Still the tall bird dwells

 

By the shore, wading,

 

His toes, he dips,

 

Entranced

 

By the unseen beings all around,

 

Watching and waiting

 

Waiting and watching,

 

And listening

 

To the sound

 

Of the worlds of the sea,

 

In the mist of many lilies,

 

In the trails,

 

In the trains

 

Of mist,

 

Walking over the wide waters,

 

Listening

 

For the bells

 

To chime,

 

The bells that are certain to ring,

 

The bells in the echoes, beyond all time.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo credit: ID 121845856 Tahir Abbas / dreamstime.com

 

T.Voekler This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikipedia 1024px-Sacred_lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera

 

What is – and who?

 

Within the age-worn masks of maya

 

There is only the one,

 

Where the clouds slip over the blue

 

Skies

 

Like white kites, wind-blown,

 

Scattering –

 

Then

 

Gone.

 

In the midnight

 

Before the dawn

 

History’s nightmares of desecration

 

Crack like jack hammers –

 

Then they have flown,

 

Away,

 

Gone

 

By the hour

 

Of moonrise,

 

When

 

Only the deep desert remains,

 

Only the ethereal,

 

Wise stones,

 

Only the clarity

 

Of the presence that never wanes,

 

Only the one

 

Who becomes all beings, and

 

Who by day

 

Sings within the luminous song

 

Of the cactus wren,

 

Perching where the wind stirs

 

On the high pine bough,

 

Overlooking the shifting sand

 

Of the shore,

 

Strewn with bitter bones,

 

The fading fires of empire;

 

There is only the one who shines in the white

 

Petal

 

Of the dogwood tree,

 

Tipped on the cliff-height;

 

Or who looks through each of the thousand,

 

Awakening emerald eyes

 

Of the cobra,

 

Drifting from cosmic wave to wave,

 

Never to settle

 

For long

 

On the rolling, green-winged sea,

 

The many-hooded cobra – the couch for Narayana,

 

While he is dreaming now

 

And evermore;

 

There is everywhere only the one,

 

Only the single

 

Flower,

 

Brave,

 

The unfolding power,

 

Brahman,

 

Within all the many, mist-blown masks of maya.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo credit: T.Voekler / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikipedia 1024px-Sacred_lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera.jpg

 

Within the bowl

 

Of translucent roses,

 

A star-sung reality.

 

The meaning is the soul

 

Of the word; which word?

 

The unseen hand weaves

 

Together the forest mists

 

Into the far, far lights – the hooked beak of the bird,

 

The blue

 

Green mountains, the cliffs,

 

The spirit houses

 

Which have ever been present

 

In the depths beyond time,

 

More real than the silver sparkling leaves

 

Of the aspen trees

 

Near the flickering domain

 

Of the sage

 

Grouse,

 

More real than the turning tidal sound of the seas,

 

More real than the fog-bound whiffs

 

Of bison noses

 

In the cold-trodden winters of the plain.

 

No, you cannot find them in the bending

 

Desert sage –

 

Until they are within you.

 

You who?

 

Beyond the swift-footed fires of the sun,

 

Beyond the leaping waters that hurl

 

Themselves from heights

 

Down steep mountain rocks,

 

Beyond only the winds that curl

 

Along the empty docks

 

Of the shipyards of forgotten time,

 

The spirit houses, within earshot of the sounding chime

 

Of eternity,

 

Remain

 

Each one,

 

Radiant,

 

In the light-toed, gray-winged rain

 

That blows through all the realms from age

 

To age to age

 

To snow-enchanted age,

 

While the wild horse

 

Runs with his herd

 

His ancient course,

 

His hooves flying,

 

Dancing,

 

Through wind-lit streams of moonbeams.

 

 

© Sharon St Joan, July 2019 

 

Photo: ID 113986688 © Heather Mcardle | Dreamstime.com

 

1024px-Corvus_corax_tibetanus

 

Where the essence of the rain echoes

 

The magic beyond time,

 

There, as anyone knows,

 

There is no time.

 

Only the bluebirds that flit quickly

 

From branch to beaded branch; only

 

The far, jasmine-flowered eyes

 

Of the deer that trails beyond the tree;

 

Only the elusive tower

 

In the clouds where that ancient spirit stays

 

To watch and then simply to remain.

 

Only the One who is all,

 

Only the breath of the boat of the moon,

 

In misted shawl,

 

Mother of the silver pathways,

 

That run along the creek-enchanted stones

 

Of greening moss and deepening mystery.

 

Soon,

 

With the fleet

 

Ears of the listening hour,

 

Ever-perceptive,

 

Those black-robed ravens

 

(Who live,

 

Long,

 

In joy, where we do not,

 

In the bitter knocking wind of winter’s bones)

 

Will hear the exultant wail of the coyote,

 

(Who has never been wrong

 

Yet always was held ever, in

 

The bright-leaved essence of the rain)

 

Will hear now, so clearly, the tumbling power

 

Of the dawn over the rain-sung mountains,

 

Where the ringing song

 

Is heard to rise

 

Then wane,

 

Beyond the rock-encircled climb

 

To the fire-striking feet

 

Of Hamsa, the knowing swan

 

And then, anon,

 

Will chime

 

In peace the single mystic gong

 

That folds up the wandering wings of being.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2019

 

Photo: Pkspks / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.”/ Wikipedia

 

 

 

Phoenix_detail_from_Aberdeen_Bestiary

 

Out of the ashes of the end

 

Arises the Phoenix.

 

Who is this Phoenix

 

Who flies through flashes

 

Of burning embers,

 

Who extends

 

Her black-enchanted wings

 

From the horizon

 

To the wind-streaked high plateau,

 

This one who ever dies,

 

Yet flies

 

Again

 

With golden beak

 

And brown-laked eyes

 

That seek

 

Only those stories, spoken lore,

 

True and raven-wandering?

 

Mountain air gleams;

 

Glittering stars talk

 

And walk,

 

And wend their way

 

Among the hidden crannies of the skies

 

And know

 

Where eagles slip through time’s illusion,

 

Eagles who remember every eon

 

And recall the wisdom

 

Of the glad-winged Hamsa

 

Who hears,

 

Even now, the dawn-invoking, distant drums

 

Of long-gone dreams.

 

After the flames of desecrated towns

 

Leave strange, fossilized soils,

 

After the blanched wicks

 

Of all the candles have been snuffed,

 

And volcanic plumes fluffed

 

Aloft in sobering winds,

 

After the great ending,

 

The air clears

 

Of dim, smoke-laden whiffs.

 

Then Adi Sesha of the thousand, bright-singing,

 

Emerald crowns,

 

Older than all the many worlds before,

 

Older than the trees of time, ever ancient,

 

Floats again

 

On the timeless mist

 

Of eternity,

 

Lifting, on his linked coils,

 

The light form of Narayana,

 

Radiant,

 

Who slumbers,

 

Resting.

 

Then the Phoenix

 

Rises through the amethyst

 

Height,

 

Over the land where lilies still grow

 

In the backwaters

 

Not far from the rainbowed sea,

 

In the rain,

 

In the truth where only

 

The innocent curlews, nesting,

 

Play by the rocky shore

 

On a gray, moon-bent day

 

There the waves crash, exuberant,

 

Against the granite cliffs.

 

 

©Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

Illustration: Phoenix detail from Aberdeen Bestiary, Public Domain, Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nataraja

800px-An_ephemeral_waterfall

 

Their lives are cast in shadows,

 

They who will not see you,

 

You who no one knows,

 

Not hearing your voice in the grass, talking,

 

Or in the pale wintry call

 

Of the tern,

 

Not hearing your voice of ashes,

 

Unaware of your presence in the flames

 

Of the waters that run,

 

That turn over the stones.

 

Still there is only you,

 

No one else anywhere,

 

You who stand behind all;

 

Within all.

 

With only a billion names

 

You are one.

 

In the night soul of the forest, oaken,

 

In the stalking

 

Of the insistent leopard,

 

In the power of the sea, cresting

 

Blue,

 

In the word

 

Of the wind that so long wandered

 

By the bleak

 

Runes.

 

Now there dawns the dancer in the sky overhead,

 

About whom none may speak,

 

And nothing may be said,

 

Not ever spoken.

 

There rise the flames of the names,

 

Unbroken,

 

Standing still by the tall

 

Reeds in the lake of the sun,

 

Hearing your voice in all the rains

 

That ever were,

 

Singing.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2018

 

Photo: Vince Reinhart/“This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.”/Wikipedia/ Waterfall on the Chagrin River, Ohio

 

1599px-Kailash_north

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

Inextricably intertwined with the animals of the forest, with the rivers, the mountains, and the rocks, since time immemorial, has been the spiritual life of India, as Dr. Nanditha Krishna writes in her very beautiful book, Hinduism and Nature. The spiritual traditions of the East tend to have a kind, gentle, and reverent approach to the natural world.

 

The gods of the Vedas, the earliest books ever written, were all linked to nature. Indra is the god of rains and storms, thunder and lightning. Shiva lives at Mount Kailas, a great mountain in the land of snow and ice. We are all the children of Mother Earth.

 

God himself comes to earth in the forms of the animals. Lord Vishnu incarnates first as a fish; then as a turtle; then a wild boar; then a half-man, half lion; and only then as a human. Everything in nature is sacred. All animals and all of nature belong to god, all are in fact manifestations of god, and all, ultimately, are a sacred part of god.

 

Human beings are not given dominion over nature, but rather are expected to protect and care for the natural world, living in harmony with it.

 

As we struggle today with the reality of climate change, this is a book with many lessons for the times in which we live. Despite the grave concern that so many of us have about our destructive approach to nature – progress in changing human behavior just limps along, and so far, the destruction of the natural world seems to be not just continuing, but by some accounts is winning and gaining momentum.

 

Unfortunately, we tend to put climate change at the bottom of our collective list of priorities, and when we think of it at all – we think mainly in terms of benefit to humans. How many carbon footprints can we count – how much energy can we get from wind and solar?  Really, this is a far cry from seeing ourselves as a part of nature – we are a long way from worshipping the trees, the mountains and the rivers, as our ancestors once did, even in Europe.

 

Some of us are appalled at the thought of worshipping anything at all (and this also is a western mindset). Heaven forbid that we should honor the sacredness of animals and plants. Instead, we objectify nature. We remain alienated from the earth and the beauty of all the living beings of the earth. Yet, if the earth is to survive, we will need to make an about-face. We need to acknowledge the intrinsic beauty and value of all life.

 

The most ancient books of Hinduism were composed in the forests, where sages and wise people lived.

 

Every village in India once had a sacred forest – maybe two acres, or maybe two hundred. Within the boundaries of this sacred grove, all life was sacred. Within these forests lived the gods that people worshipped. The trees and the animals were not to be harmed for any reason, though, in recent decades, many of these forests have fallen into disrepair. One of Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s foundations, the CPR Environmental Education Centre, has restored 53 of these sacred groves; and their upkeep is now being managed by local villages.

 

Most of one of the two great epics of India, the Ramayana, takes place inside forests, as the hero Rama travels throughout India traversing all the many different kinds of forest; there are spectacular descriptions of flowering trees and plants, and the graceful beauty of the wild animals.

 

6_Śiva_and_Pārvatī_seated_on_a_terrace._1800_(circa)_BM

 

Every river in India is a goddess – except for two who are male gods. Beautiful stories are told about these river goddesses. Because the river Ganges did not want to fall straight down to the earth out of fear that her great power might destroy the plants and animals below, she sought the help of Shiva. When she fell down from heaven to earth, the water power was caught in Shiva’s hair, in order to break the fall, then it fell gently down, from Shiva’s head, to the earth below. It still does today.

 

The land of India, north and south, is filled with sacred lakes, and sacred ponds known as “tanks”, which are artificial bodies of water, some created many centuries ago. These sacred bodies of water hold large amounts of rainfall to protect against droughts. Seeping from these ponds and tanks into the surrounding soil, the stored water is available to the plants and trees during times of water scarcity. Many of these tanks were built in times past by kings whose engineers understood the value of conserving water.

 

Even today, despite the deleterious effects of western influence, which is all too pervasive in India, particularly in the fields of science and education, there is a strong, vibrant love and respect for nature. There remains today, as always in the past, a profound reverence for all life – human, animal, plant, and the features of the landscape – the mighty rivers, mountains, and forests.

 

1600px-JhansiGhat

 

There is much that we in the west can learn from this great land, whose wisdom stretches back at least 5,000 years, and probably much, much farther. Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s beautifully written book, Hinduism and Nature, is a very good place to start on this journey to broaden our understanding of the earth and our place in nature.

 

Photo Credits

 

Top Photo: Ondrej Zvacek / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Wikipedia. / Northern side of Mount Kailash

 

Second photo: Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons / The Ganges falling through Shiva’s hair.

 

Third photo: Rbsrajput / Wikipedia: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / The Narmada River.

 

one ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

 

By Sharon St Joan

 

On Friday, November 2, 2018 at 11 pm in Maharashtra, India, a tiger called Avni was shot and killed by the Forest Service, leaving her two ten-month old cubs, who are too young to survive on their own, without their mother. There has been a major outcry against this injustice in the Indian press. For details, you can google “Avni” – beware of numerous fabricated justifications (lies) being given by the authorities.

 

In Utah, in the U.S. (and in other states), hunting native big cats is not illegal. Every year in Utah the number of cougars allowed to be hunted is increased, despite the fact that there is no real data on the actual numbers of cougars left in the wild. This hunting season, the target for cougars has been raised from 581 to 642 – the equivalent of 61 additional, innocent “Avni’s” slated to lose their lives. (Please see the link below.)

 

twoID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

 

A cougar is not a tiger and is not – not yet anyway – endangered. Not being endangered, however, is not a reason to allow the senseless killing of living animals – for the sole purpose of displaying their heads on the living room wall. Both tigers and cougars are astonishing, magnificent animals. And every other animal on earth – from the bright fish in the sea to the squirrels who are gathering their food for winter is a living, sentient being, whose life has worth and value.

 

Connectedness

 

Entirely apart from the consciousness and sentience of each living animal, to whom her life is as precious to her as ours is to us – we, as humans, are all connected to the world of nature.

 

This connectedness is extremely ancient knowledge, still alive in India – and, to some extent, in the west as well. In Hinduism, every God or Goddess is linked to an animal. The Goddess Durga, one of the forms of the wife of the great God Shiva, is also an independent, powerful deity in her own right. She is fierce, a warrior Goddess who fights and defeats evil. Durga and the tiger are inseparable.

 

This ferocity is also the nature of the tiger – powerful and dynamic, a mother who defends and protects her young. Or a male who represents the wild spirit of the forest.

 

The tiger is the essence of the wild – untamable and free.

 

threeID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

 

Who would want to kill such a magnificent animal?

 

Paleolithic and neolithic people did hunt for survival, but not for sport.

 

Since the beginning of time, animals have been hunted for food by tribal people. For at least 10,000 years Native Americans lived off the land, hunting and fishing, as well as growing whatever vegetables they could. In the sixteenth century, when Europeans arrived on the shores of America, they found a land of unbelievable beauty and magnificence – filled with a vast abundance of wildlife and wild lands which had not been destroyed or diminished – which they promptly set about to demolish. This destruction continues unabated to this day, until there is not much left of the great wilderness that was once here.

 

Europeans, my ancestors and perhaps yours, brought with them a culture of dominance (over other peoples and nature), which is also a culture of alienation from the natural world. It’s a case of “us” and “them,” which proclaims, “I’m a human, and that thing over there, unfortunately, is just an ‘animal’ – just an object to be used for my benefit.”

 

Malevolent intent?

 

We can see this thinking alive and well today in the way that the word “animal” is still being used, endlessly, sometimes to apply to anyone who is simply “other.” The word “animal” is also used for those who demonstrate disgusting or criminal behavior – despite the fact that animals are innocent beings, and no animal behaves, or thinks, like a criminal. The attribute of “viciousness” can logically apply only to humans, because it applies to malevolent intent, which animals simply do not have.

 

It is this malevolent intent which is the problem. Not all humans, thankfully, have this trait. And not all cultures either. It is something gone awry in the history of our race. If one goes far back to the time of the Romans, the Europeans, then pagan tribes, were worshipping trees and nature, just like other early peoples.

 

They had genuine spiritual traditions, really not so different from those of India, which were based on peace and harmony with nature. Not that they were entirely peaceful, they certainly weren’t, but there was an underlying premise of being at one with nature – of being part of one overall earth – of not being alienated or superior to this planet – and there was an absence of the desire to kill nature. (Sadly, western religions seem to have little to do now with their own origins, and they have, in large measure, been taken over by the western view which sees everything as a dichotomy.)

 

Inciting fear

 

Killing a tiger, a cougar, a bear, or a wolf, is, in a way, emblematic of this malevolent intent – this destructive, evil force which has, to some extent, possessed the human race. These great archetypal animals seem to incite fear and to have a magical power within them – some sort of force, a will, which is untamed and untamable. They are hunted for no rational purpose – hunted to near extinction. No one in Utah, or elsewhere in the U.S., is in any reasonable danger of being killed by a cougar. We are in far more danger of being killed by our own cars, while we are driving them, than we are of being harmed by any of these animals.

 

There is something vastly irrational about the destruction that we as humans are inflicting on the earth. We have already destroyed 60% of the animals on the planet. We have turned half of the earth’s land mass into farm land, destroying forests and natural ecosystems.

 

fourID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

 

With our artificial chemicals pouring into waterways, we are rapidly poisoning the ocean – as well as the air and the land. And, as we know, we are destroying the climate.

 

Since we are dependent on the earth for our survival, there is absolutely nothing sane or rational about these human activities. They are like a suicidal madman waving about a bomb that is about to detonate.

 

Yes, of course, there is an element of greed and self-centeredness in the way humans go about taking over and then obliterating all life on the planet. But this, in itself, is really not a rational explanation for the obsessive level of destruction that is taking place.

 

One might posit that there is some underlying, driving, unconscious force which compels us to behave in this immensely self-destructive way. We seem to want to kill ourselves.

 

Why?

 

This major isolation and alienation from nature which has taken hold of us is propelling us toward a cliff, a bottomless abyss — and seems to predetermine our will as a species, and our actions.

 

Yet, although this is, I am aware, profoundly gloomy, there is something else also, a certain light – which lies in the fact that not all of humanity has always behaved in this self-destructive way.

 

Ancient people saw themselves as part of the earth, as, ultimately being at one with the animals, the trees, the rivers, and all life.  Even today, especially among those cultures and countries not altogether swept up in the falsehoods of the modern worldview, there are remnants and in some cases the reawakening of a true realization that we are the earth and the earth is us. We are all one, intertwined and interrelated.

 

There is, moreover, a dynamic, and growing movement, all over the planet, both east and west, to return to, and go forward with, the knowledge and vision of deep reverence for the world of nature and the sacredness of all life.

 

Looking ahead

 

fiveID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

This is the great end battle. Nature, of course – even if it takes several millennia — will recover and will win, in this world or in another. The question that remains is — will we join with nature, protecting her as the earth, our mother, or will we, as a species, self-destruct? We shall see.

 

In the meantime, each of us can open our eyes and our hearts — and live, as best we can, in harmony and peace with the natural world and its numinous, alive, wild presence – encountered in the wonderful, fiery eyes of the tiger and in all of nature.

 

Link to Salt Lake Tribune article about cougar hunting:

https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2018/09/15/utah-is-putting-more/

 

 

Photos:

Top photo:ID 59266198 © Adriana Maria Leenheer | Dreamstime.com

Second photo:ID 39369001 © Belizar | Dreamstime.com

Third photo: ID 50336351 © Sonsam | Dreamstime.com

Fourth photo: ID 63152963 © Wonderful Nature | Dreamstime.com

Fifth photo: ID 102516960 © Avspream | Dreamstime.com

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2018