Category: Reflections


brown goat beside green plants
Photo by Nina Rath on Pexels.com

Well, I can hear you thinking – What a silly question, of course, wildlife are important! They are sentient beings, beautiful animals that have feelings. Of course, they are important.

Most kind people who care about animals would reply this way. As for those who genuinely do not care, we lost them when they saw the title. So, this is for those who do care.

But let’s pause for a moment. Many of us, especially at the moment, are quite overwhelmed. If we are fortunate enough to have a relatively secure situation in life – if we have a job, if we are not lining up for a food bank, if we are not in a state of crisis – we may still either be afraid for the future or in a state of distress at the suffering of our fellow human beings. To some extent this is not new – it is worse now, but it is not new. Life has always had difficult times – for those who have a sick child, or elderly parents, or who are sick themselves – or who are struggling in any of many, many ways. And yes, absolutely, if we have a sick child, the child must come first, and we need to care for the child – or whoever else we may need to care for.

Too busy

Even in the best of times, many of us are just busy – really busy.  We rush here. We rush there, and if we stop rushing, things fall behind and do not get done. So to stay on top of our situation, we need to take care of those immediate, insistent things that require our attention. No one is saying that we shouldn’t do this.

Some of us, perhaps most of us though, do have a little bit of leeway – there are the couple of hours in the evening we spend in front of the TV. There is some time here and some time there. There are days, weeks, months when there is no crisis – when we do have some time.

Priorities

And what are our priorities?  In the past few years, statistically speaking, our priorities have been health care, national security, the economy, maybe climate change, social and racial justice – or stability, depending on how we look at the world. If we are asked if we care about wildlife, we say, yes, of course. But really, that’s not at the top of our list. Overwhelmingly, our concerns are human concerns. We care about ourselves and other people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with caring about other people. It’s a wonderful quality to have. It is essential. There is really in our country a state of vast social and racial injustice, and it is fundamentally important – and this moment in time is, we trust, a profound turning point for change.

symmetrical photography of clouds covered blue sky
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

But, then where are we with wildlife? We care about dogs, cats – sometimes we care about horses, or even elephants and tigers. Somewhere, somehow, the little songbirds, the dragonflies, the coyotes, the squirrels, and the bobcats just do not quite register in our consciousness. And their habitat – without which they cannot survive – even less.

Let me give a couple of examples based on real, factual situations. When there is a water shortage due to lack of rain, and there is a stream – a little stream – and a coal company wants to pollute the waters of the stream just a little bit more than it already does – first, when it appears that this might affect the town’s drinking water, there is huge concern – then, when it is understood, that, no, nobody is talking about drinking water, this would only affect the water way upstream, and any tiny bit of pollution would just be washed away naturally by the rain (forgetting conveniently that there is no rain), without affecting the water downstream (which doesn’t make sense, but nevermind), then, amazingly all concern vanishes – and the same people who were alarmed about their own drinking water, somehow can no long find the time to be interested in this situation. What about the deer, the ring-tailed cats, the badgers, the songbirds who also need to drink? Somehow, they are just not anywhere near the top of our list. They may take our attention for a moment, just a moment – then they are gone from our thoughts.

And what about climate change? For many of us this means our own clean air, our own clean water – it means kids not having asthma (which is absolutely important) – it means developing clean energy so that, whatever the future may bring, we will be able to drive our cars, heat and cool our homes, and live decent, comfortable lives. Yes, these things are important. We’re used to them and we would get frazzled (myself included!) if it were freezing in the winter and boiling hot in the summer. Really, are we giving a single thought to the plight of the birds for whom breathing adequately is even more necessary than it is for us? Have we noticed species after species of songbirds greatly diminished in numbers or gone altogether? Have we noticed that, without rain, there are no butterflies at all? And so few insects that insect-eating birds have nothing to eat? The answer is – no, we haven’t noticed. It’s not because we don’t care. If someone told us, we would care. We just literally haven’t noticed. For the vast majority of us, we simply do not see wildlife. Wildlife just do not appear on our radar screen.

So why does this matter? What difference does it make? And, yes, we don’t want to see wildlife suffer, but really we can’t spend our whole lives worrying about bobcats, let alone butterflies.

Why are wildlife important?

But there is one extremely relevant reason why wildlife are important – not just for their own sake, but for our sake as well – and this is the reason: Wildlife are the children of the earth. They are part of the earth. They may be invisible to us, but they are an essential part of the universe. As children of the earth, they, in a truly meaningful way, are life itself. Yes, we are all children of the earth – but to us as humans this is mostly an abstraction – a truth to be remembered only occasionally, if at all. But a wild being – a deer, a wolf, an eagle – is the earth – is part of the fabric of life. And when we deny life, deny nature, deny existence, and deny the universe, then we will soon be in trouble, just as we are now.  When we alienate ourselves from the natural world – to the extreme extent that we no longer even think about the natural world, not even in passing, then we have climbed to the end of the tree branch, and we are about to saw off the branch on which we are sitting, thereby sending ourselves plummeting down to injury and death – and that is precisely where we are now. We have alienated ourselves from life.

Consequences?

The consequence of we, as the human race, alienating ourselves from life is this: We have become parasites – unthinking, unconscious parasites who are destroying life, and nature – maybe not intentionally, but sometimes just accidentally – unaware, unconcerned. And the only solution that will make the slightest difference, ultimately, is not the Paris climate accords, or the Clean Air Act or clean energy or any number of government meetings and agreements (which are not happening much, but even if they were, they would not reach the root of the problem). The root of the problem is our disassociation, our alienation from nature. This concept is woven into the fabric of western civilization – which is a topic for another time. But this is killing us. Alienation from nature is killing the source of our lives – the earth herself – who we, without even paying attention, have thoughtlessly and unconsciously – abandoned, neglected, ignored, and then slaughtered and destroyed. When we kill the earth, we kill ourselves.

The first thing we can do – is un-alienate ourselves. This may not save the planet. It is quite late for that and, until we can engage others, we are, by ourselves, just one person. Yet still we must start somewhere. We must shine a small light into the darkness. Not by feeling bad – feeling bad accomplishes nothing, but instead by re-connecting with nature. Just simply doing that.

Take a walk in the woods. If there are no woods because you are in a city, then go to a park, sit by a tree. No trees? Then go to a flower shop and smell the flowers. If nothing else, then watch the clouds overhead – watch the sunlight or the rain. Watch a pigeon fly through the air. Be thankful, be grateful, and acknowledge the reality that you and I are not superior beings at all. We are at one with the natural world, with the earth – and this will be a step. The first thing this will do is put us in touch, just a little bit, with the peace of the universe. And the second thing it will do, is create a little wave in the ether – a little life-giving wave that will help someone somewhere – another being – a fish in a river, a tree in a park, another human being – and by becoming part of the resurrection of life – we will have played some small part in renewing the earth – if not in this age, then in the age that is to come – building a bit of a bridge to a world of light.

I know this seems simplistic, and it is not a remedy meant for everyone – if it were, we would all already be doing this, and there would be no problem. But if we are to some extent, in touch with real reality, then this will not be incomprehensible to us. We will remember sometime in our life when we felt in contact with the earth, with a tree or a bird or a sunset, and we will understand that this is the point where we must begin – to be at one, once again, with the web of life that is the earth – that is our life and the life of the universe.

By Sharon St Joan

© Sharon St Joan, 2020

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What to do?

By Sharon St Joan

On a practical note – and unrelated to the thoughts below: I am no longer able (for purely technical reasons) to post reblogs on this site – either temporarily or maybe for quite a while. I’m quite sorry about this since many of them were beautiful glimpses of nature and very much worth reblogging. Thank you to all those who created them. In any case, I shall have to do a bit more writing myself in order to have something to post.

Today, the sad passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left us as a nation teetering on a brink that we may not get past.

This compounds the sense of danger and a sense of impending doom that we may feel creeping here and there, through the shadows, that menaces our country and our future.

This morning I noticed that an acquaintance of mine had discontinued his blog. The other day, a friend mentioned that probably, this was all just a “blip in time” and that we would soon get past it – a thought that sounded optimistic, but that revealed an underlying sense of fear.

A black patch?

Some of us, for better or for worse, have learned to become quite good at escaping black patches of reality – at just skating away into a dreamland – but as one looks around it would be hard not to notice that others seem to be sinking fast into a certain black patch. So here are a couple of reflections that might help — a few tips just in case a black patch might be looming ahead.

There can be a growing sense of futility if we begin to wonder how it is possible to do anything positive in our own lives – when justice, at this moment in time, does not seem to prevail.

A conversation long ago

I have been recalling a lot lately a conversation that I had ten or twelve years ago with a friend who has done a great deal in his own life, especially in east Asia, but also in the rest of the world, for the cause of animals. He had gone on a solitary retreat to try to sort out his purpose in life. In a state of profound despair, he felt that the suffering of animals was so immense and overwhelming that nothing could help. After three days spent alone – I think on the top of a mountain – he came to the awareness that he would spend the rest of his life just helping when and where he could. He would never be able to help all animals. But he could alleviate the suffering of just one dog here and one cat there – just a few in one city — a few hundred in another city — and maybe also a squirrel or a bird in distress, along the way — and that this was worth doing and would be his purpose in life. He has done this since, and after that insight, he felt some clarity and peace.

A bridge to the future

To go back for a moment to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a woman of extraordinary brilliance and accomplishments who has even bent the trajectory of history, she wrote many dissenting options for the Supreme Court. Interestingly, she said that she was, in some ways, most proud of her dissenting opinions. She did not regard these dissenting opinions as losses or defeats. Instead, she viewed them as possibilities for the future — as views whose time had not yet come, but that might pave the way for a changed and more just future, when others might come to agree and more enlightened action might be possible — in short, as a bridge to the future. Life is not static — there are highs and lows – positives and negatives – cycles. When we focus on windows for change – no matter how tiny these little windows may be, there can be momentum and ultimately, transformation.

Focusing on the immediate

It is good for us to value the work that we can do right now to help one animal, or one human being, or to plant one tree that may grow up in the sunlight. This is enough. It is enough because it is a beginning. Do not focus on the grand outcome. That is the responsibility of the universe. It is not your responsibility and not my responsibility. The universe will do what it does.

The yugas

According to The Hindu faith, there are four ages that cycle on, one after another. After the last age, the terrible time known as the Kali Yuga – then there will arise another age – the beginning one – of great vision and great insight, of love and compassion, of new life and energy. What we do now, even when it may be unseen or unacknowledged, can help build a bridge to that new age.

There is a great cycle of many yugas, following each other.

Let us focus, in the meantime (in this time of transitions and endings), on the good that we each can do — imparting peace to the earth, wherever and whenever we can – not wasting time on fear for the future or on regrets about the past — or, even worse – on blame and anger. Let us spend our days living in peace and imparting peace and reassurance to others — not just humans, but to animals and to trees and to the land of the earth as well.

One step, then another

Not all of us may be able to do much at his moment because truly there is a potential for very great catastrophe, and some may see that more clearly than others. If you find yourself caught in a moment of despair — just try to do one very small thing — extend a hand of kindness to someone — then later on to another and then to another — that will be a beginning. Water a flower or call a friend, or a stranger, or say a prayer.

Remember the Great Light of the Universe who enters the world and who makes the world out of Her (or His) own being – who takes on the mantle of time — who lives and dies and rises again, who is the heart of all faiths. (Yes, there is profound truth, even in Christianity. ) (There, now I have offended everyone – Christians, atheists, Moslems, everyone — oh, well, so be it.)

Let us carry a light each day — a beacon — big or small — a gift that comes to us from that Great Light from which all arises and to which – and to whom – all returns.

Bless you and

Namaste,

Sharon

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

 

 

© Evgeny Drobzhev | Dreamstime.com

 

This interview was written down verbatim, with no editing:

 

Where are we before we’re born?

With God.

What is God?

God is everything.

Where is God?

God’s in heaven.

If God is everything, isn’t God here too?

God is watching over us.

How come people get sick if God is watching?

They just do.

Why do people die?

Because it gets their time, and it just gets their time to die, and they have to.

What happens to people when they die?

They join heaven – a beautiful, magical place.

What happens when lions die?

They roam heaven in peace.

What happens to bad people when they die?

They learn a lesson at heaven.

What happens to mosquitoes when they die?

They go into their own little mosquito heaven.

Are people better than animals?

They’re the same.

Are animals better than people?

No, they’re the same.

Is there one God or lots of gods?

There is lots of gods.

Can you tell me more about that?

Some are Egyptian gods, some are Indian gods, some are the Bible God, some are earth God, some are Mars God, some are China God. That sort of thing.

Are all the gods in heaven?

Some are still alive.

Did all gods used to be alive?

Yes.

When?

Way, way back maybe when the dinosaurs lived.

Why do people say there’s one god if there’s lots?

Because people have different beliefs.

Is God a boy?

Some are.

How do you talk to God?

Praying and talking to trees to tell them to tell God.

How does God talk to us?

We feel it in our mind or if we’re already dead, then we’ll just hear him in real life.

Why do trees talk easier to God?

Because they’re higher up and their branches reach to God and he can hear them talking.

How come I can’t hear trees talk?

You can, but only in your mind.

Is it easier for children to talk to God?

No. It’s easier for grownups actually.

Why?

Cause kids have less focus.

How many gods are there?

Too many to count.

Is it important to pray?

Some people it is, some people it’s not.

Why do bad things sometimes happen to good people?

Bad people make bad things happen to good people, but then they can pray to God.

It’s always caused by bad people? What if someone just gets sick?

That is because maybe the bad people tricked them to come over to their house when they’re sick and they gave it to them.

What about when a nice kid becomes an orphan?

Nothing really bad happened. It was just time for the parents to die.

Why are people so sad sometimes?

Because they can’t keep themselves happy and they want to be sad.

What should people do with their lives?

They have to have fun here while they’re still here. And enjoy their time.

Can people do magic?

Only if they have pixie dust. Otherwise, it’s not real.

Can some people tell the future?

Well, you have to have pixie dust.

What’s in outer space?

Stars.

Does anyone live in outer space?

Aliens.

Is there anything else you want to share?

The great heart key will unlock a door, but no one knows where it is. It’s the door to friendship and love. And we have it.

Who has it?

Us. Annika, Dad and you, mama.

 

Photo: © Evgeny Drobzhev | Dreamstime.com

 

 

Lascaux_painting

By Sharon St Joan

 

When watching the stock market, we talk about the bulls and the bears – why? Well, the symbolism behind this isn’t so much really about the bears, but it is about the bulls, who from the very beginning of human consciousness have been known as a symbol of power, success, and victory. The bull stands at the top of the mountain, having conquered his rivals.

 

In the caves of Lascaux, in southern France, 17,000 years ago, Cro-Magnon man painted extraordinarily beautiful cave paintings. The largest of these, running about 17 feet long, depicts, a bull, not a modern bull, but an ancient wild bull, the auroch, a species that existed before bulls became domesticated. They were much larger then and fiercer.

 

Visiting Crete in the late sixties, I was struck by the many depictions in the ruins of Knossos of the bull. Even simple blocks of stone had double bulls’ horns carved at either end. Clearly, the bull was an archetypal symbol for the Minoans, whose civilization was at its zenith, around 1500 BCE.

 

 

In ancient Egypt, the bull was worshipped as the god Apis, symbol of strength and power.

 

Among Native Americans of the plains, where there were no cattle, the bison assumed the place of the bull, and the bison, who provided everything the plains people needed in terms of food, clothing, and shelter, were greatly revered.

 

In Vedic literature and other sacred texts of India, great heroes were referred to as “bulls among men.” Throughout history and today in India, the vehicle of the God Shiva is the bull, Nandi, who guards the entrance of every Shiva temple, and the devotee pays his respects to Nandi, who then graciously allows the devotee to enter the temple and to worship Shiva.

 

In the Christian Bible, the ancient Hebrews got into a lot of trouble by worshipping the Golden Calf, as soon as Moses had been gone too long on the mountain. When their faith in Moses waned, they reverted to an older tradition – worship of the bull.

 

392px-Elam_r_(30)

 

The Mesopotamians worshipped the bull as Marduk, a magical being – god of water and the growth of vegetation, as well as judge of human affairs.

 

The Canaanite god Moloch was often portrayed as a bull.

 

Unfortunately, the position of great honor bestowed on the bull throughout history has drawn the attention of a darker aspect of human nature, which is the desire to kill whoever or whatever stands at the top. This is not at all the same as the legitimate fight against oppression and injustice, which is noble and heroic, but instead, it is the ignoble wish to subjugate anything that might be seen as a potential rival – the basic drive which seeks to eliminate all competition in any way possible.

 

This instinctive drive has a positive side which may lead to success and to excellence, but all too often, throughout human history, it has instead been overwhelmingly negative — leading to the wanton destruction of all that is perceived as not subservient enough.

 

The desire to destroy one’s rival leads to wars, to run-away arms races, to tyranny, to the accumulation of wealth at the expense of all who are less fortunate, to the oppression of the female, the young and the old, and all who are weaker or poorer. It leads to the destruction of nature, the elimination of wild species, the devastation of the planet earth and to climate change run rampant. At its most extreme, anything that is beautiful, untamed, or magnificent is the enemy of this drive for domination and becomes a target for destruction.

 

All this has lead to the bull being among the most persecuted of animals in many cultures, worldwide.

 

800px-Armon_Knossos_P1060030

 

The bull in ancient Crete was the object of bull-baiting in which young men leaped on the backs of the bull to ride them, thus proclaiming their victory and superiority over the bull – and their worth as “heroes.”

 

Bull-fighting is the modern day form of this in Spain and other countries. In Spain and in Mexico, there are lesser-known “festivals,” sponsored by local Catholic churches, which far exceed bull-fighting in terms of extreme cruelty, torture, and the killing of the bull.

 

There are ritual tribal persecutions of the bull in sub-Saharan Africa.

 

In the history of Christianity, the devil has traditionally been depicted with the horns and the tail of a bull – thus showing the bull, who is an innocent animal, as the essence and symbol of evil.

 

The drive to dominate, subject, torment, and destroy all that is innocent and beautiful represents the very worst aspect of human nature, and it is based on fear, the fear of being defeated and replaced.

 

There is though a positive, iconic figure who is just the opposite of this – the protective hero, seen for example, in the great flood myth of India in the Noah figure, Manu. Manu saves a tiny, helpless fish, who calls out to him for help because he is about to be eaten by large, ferocious fish. Manu cares for his little fish with great attentiveness, for many years, raising him until he becomes a large, strong fish and then releasing him to be free again in the sea. The fish repays him for saving his life by warning him of the Great Flood and then by pulling Manu’s ship through the tempestuous waves to the top of a mountain, to rest in safety. There, all the seeds that Manu has brought along on the boat are planted in the ground, and the life of the earth is restored to begin anew. Manu is the archetype of the positive, protective figure, noble and kind, who cares for the good and the innocent. He is the true hero.

 

800px-The_fish_avatara_of_Vishnu_saves_Manu_during_the_great_deluge

 

Even India though, which has for many thousands of years worshipped and revered trees, plants, and animals, is not free from the destructive instinct to dominate, especially to dominate the bull, and this is seen in the cruel sport jallikattu, a form of bull-baiting practiced in the south in Tamil Nadu, in which crowds of young men torment and persecute bulls as a spectator sport. It is also evident in the cruelties inherent in the illegal transport and slaughter of cattle – and in bullock-cart racing in the state of Maharashtra.

 

These abusive practices are being opposed by thousands of animal welfare groups in India, part of an energetic struggle that has been pursued over at least the past forty years.

 

The Supreme Court of India is expected soon to deliver a ruling on these three forms of cruelty to bulls, which are already illegal, according to the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act – 1960. If the ruling upholds the rights of the bulls and the integrity of the longstanding humane traditions of India, this will be a major leap forward for animals in India and the world – and a sign that the voices of kindness and positivity are not always silenced and will sometimes prevail, overcoming all obstacles.

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2014

 

Sharon St Joan is the author of Glimpses of Kanchi.

 

Top photo: Prof saxx / “This building is indexed in the Base Mérimée, a database of architectural heritage maintained by the French Ministry of Culture, under the reference PA00082696.” / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / Lascaux Caves / Cave paintings of aurochs and deer.

 

Second photo: user:Rmashhadi / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / “This is a featured picture on the Persian language Wikipedia” / Marduk. Iran’s heritage in Musée du Louvre.

 

Third photo: Deror_avi / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version…” / This is a duplicate, at the Minoan Palace, Knossos. The original is at the museum in Heraklion, Crete.

 

Fourth photo: Ramanarayanadatta astri / Wikimedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / The fish Matsya pulling Manu and the seven rishis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29AnconaTraianocropped

Thanks to Eileen Weintraub for posting this story, from an unknown source, on the website of Help Animals India.  Eileen writes: This is a western variation on the Hindu story about Yudhisthira – a  man who wouldn’t abandon his dog to enter heaven.

 

 

A man and his dog were walking along a road.  The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.

 

He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years.  He wondered where the road was leading them.

 

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road.  It looked like fine marble.  At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

 

When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.

 

He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

 

When he was close enough, he called out, ‘Excuse me, where are we?’

 

‘This is Heaven, sir,’ the man answered.

 

‘Wow!  Would you happen to have some water?’ the man asked.

 

‘Of course, sir.  Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.’

 

The man gestured, and the gate began to open.  ‘Can my friend,’ gesturing toward his dog, ‘come in, too?’ the traveller asked.

 

‘I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.’

 

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

 

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed.  There was no fence.  As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

 

© Judy Kennamer | Dreamstime.com   dreamstime_xs_18027887

 

‘Excuse me!’ he called to the man.  ‘Do you have any water?’

 

‘Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.’

 

‘How about my friend here?’ the traveller gestured to the dog.

 

‘There should be a bowl by the pump,’ said the man.

 

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.  The traveller filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.

 

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.  ‘What do you call this place?’ the traveller asked.

 

‘This is Heaven,’ he answered.

 

‘Well, that’s confusing,’ the traveller said. ‘The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.’

 

‘Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s Hell.’

 

‘Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?’

 

‘No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.’

 

To visit the website of Help Animals India, click here.

 

Top photo: Wikimedia Commons / photographer: MarkusMark / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license./ Ancona – Arco di Traiano — An arch built by Trajan, which has nothing to do with hell as far as we know.

 

Second photo: © Judy Kennamer | Dreamstime.com

By Niamh Fodla

It’s the time of Capricorn, when everything makes sense.  When clear patterns can be seen in the chaos. When anything can be achieved, and there’s nothing that can’t be understood.  It’s a time of creation, when thoughts can become a reality, and wishes can systematically be granted.  When magic is being able to reach out and move a stone with one’s hand.  When hard work grants miracles. It’s now that abstractions settle into clear and present, usable information, like bursts of sparks floating back down to earth, forming intelligent designs.

 

rockwitharron

 

It’s a grounding time of great sanity.

 

littlerocks

A video for feeling during the time of Capricorn. The sign of rocks. Click here.

 

house,trees

 

A video for thought during the time of Capricorn.  Money is a topic of interest for Capricorn, so here’s a video of something important to understand about money.  Click here.

 

Opportunity is missed by many because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

 —  Thomas Edison

 

Photos: © Niamh Fodla

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By Sharon St Joan

All over the world there are megalithic monuments with alignments to the Winter Solstice. At the moment of the Winter Solstice a beam of light from the sun strikes the deepest recesses of an underground sacred temple, as at Newgrange in Ireland or Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland.

In the New World, at Chaco Canyon in new Mexico, the Sun Dagger at Fajada Butte marks both the Summer and Winter solstices, as well as other important celestial alignments.

The significance of the Winter Solstice is that this point in time every year marks the darkest time of the year; the death point if you wish, and at the same time, the return of the light.  It is the time, when the sun, having reached the moment when the days are the shortest, returns, and the days begin to grow longer.

The light returns, and with it comes the promise of spring and summer, the rebirth of the world.

This is also the message of Christmas – and for that matter, it is a message in many religions, not only Christianity.  At the hour of greatest darkness, the light returns, having conquered the darkness.

Interestingly, it is also the message of Jesus’s death and resurrection.  The moment of crucifixion is followed in three days (actually a day and a half according to the Biblical account) by the resurrection, as life overcomes death.

Winter itself represent cold, darkness, and death. It is the time when nothing grows and every being that can, takes shelter or hibernates, waiting for a change of seasons and the return of spring.  In warmer lands, the rainy season, or even the sun-baked, dry season may represent the time when one seeks shelter and waits, for a more propitious time – for a change of the seasons.

Though today the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21 or 22, the festival of Mithra, who was the god of light in ancient Iran, was celebrated from December 17 to December 24. The Romans adopted these dates for a festival to their god Saturn, which lasted several days and ended on December 25 – a date then later adopted by Christians as the birthday of Jesus.

When or what time of year Jesus was actually born isn’t relevant in this context. The symbolic meaning has a significance that lies beyond the historical dates.

Life is cyclic. Life follows death, and death follows life. Both are two sides of the same coin. In the darkest hour, when there seems to be the least hope, the light returns, and a new age begins.

Photographer: Rhion Pritchard / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.” / Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales, which has an alignment with the Summer Solstice.

©  2013, Sharon St Joan

What if?

© Demid | Dreamstimecliffs on a beach cote d'albatre France.com

 

By Elizabeth

 

What if suffering wasn’t part of the plan?

 

What if God did not create the world. But instead, beckons us live in His.

 

What if we’re supposed to be having fun?

 

Not amidst the torment, disease and heartbreak of this world, but in the white light which pierces the mist the moment it occurs to us.

 

What if the animals, too, are not His creations, but His fellow spirits, imprisoned too by three dimensions.

 

What if we all could escape?

 

What if the cell door has never been locked?

 

Have we all been kept in place by an illusion? The impression that a desk is real but that strange feeling is not?

 

What if we were to step through? Would we then find ourselves in an unimaginable world, trying to believe in desks? Calling occasionally from the Divine for fantastic moments of “physical intervention”?

 

What if God has no personality? If He did not get jealous, get angry, or take anyone’s side.

 

What if He never agrees with you – but is always rooting for your happiness.

 

What if misery wasn’t a lesson from  God – but a distraction by the jailer.  The hypnotist.  A painful pinch to turn your eyes from the Light.

 

What if suffering wasn’t a part of anyone’s plan except the Dark One’s?

 

And God wanted you free from it.

 

What if healing the physical world was futile without the Light of God? If the dungeon guarantees all victories temporary: a maze, always returning you – and us – to the place where you began.

 

What if even the most powerful psychic were nothing but a weather forecaster, noting which days we might expect rain and sun – although both will inevitably come. What if the most potent wizard had only the power to choose his day of sunshine.  Which the clouds will still block out in the end.

 

What if we are all playing an unwinnable game?

 

A game at which God is not the dealer in the sky.

 

But the outreached hand, inviting us to quit.

 

What if we could walk into His world without moving a muscle?

 

What if there is nothing wrong with us. With any of us. Neither the seal devouring the helpless fish. Nor the polar bear devouring the helpless seal. Nor even the human committing atrocities no other animal would dream of.

 

What if God forgives us all? And only wants us to step into the Light.

 

What if there are people and other animals who have already crossed the threshold? Who live and die in joy instead of pain.

 

What if that is what we are all meant to do?

 

What if just the thought of it makes the gloomy clouds begin to part ……..

 

 

© Elizabeth, 2013

 

Photo: © Demid / Dreamstime.com / The Alabaster Coast, Normandy, France