Creatures Great and Small
A student sent me the most beautiful pictures of the blossoming color that is currently abounding in the desert. Gorgeous hues of orange and red and gold are popping through the brown rubble! I have never been called to the desert, however these summon me!
I have actually been observing nature myself today. This afternoon my two Golden doodles chased a beaver up one of our trees in our backyard. I pulled out my binoculars to get a clearer look at the poor, shaken creature who clung to the large trunk in a desperate hug. I called back my dogs and thanked them for the alert... and I let the beaver know that she may rejoin her interrupted activity without harm. The neighbor children were yelling, "get it down...let's kill it." To which I inquired what harm was caused by our furry guest? I then posed the possibility that maybe we are both afraid of one another and one of us could show compassion to allow trust to develop. We discussed how we might do that with a ...well, beaver? The boys finally came to the conclusion that if we let our guest alone and allow her to return to her day that she would know that we mean no harm and she need not be afraid (and would come down from my tree so that I could let my dogs resume their afternoon play in the yard). Putting their slingshots (and curiosity) away, the boys left my yard and attended to another intriguing issue at hand (the other neighbor's bee hive).
How quickly are humans to react to that which we do not understand? How easily are we to dismiss and move on without reflection to still yet another unknown endeavor? What if we lived like the great philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty postulated, “the world and I are within one another” ?
According to Ernesto Spinelli, international expert in the field of existential analysis and applied psychology and author of Practising Existential Therapy: The Relational World, the existential concept of relatedness argues that every thought, feeling and action arise not only from the interaction of systems and components within me but also from the interaction between me, others and the world. In other words, relationship exists and without the foundation of certain conditions. It simply is.
I am reminded of one of my favorite books, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Holt. In this delightful read we encounter the creatures who abide in Hundred Acre Woods and discover that it is Winnie the Pooh, our simple-minded and honey craving stuffed bear who manifests the Taoist ideal of the still, calm, reflecting 'mirror-mind' of the Uncarved Block. It is Pooh who reminds us that, "Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet."
This is different from the characters Rabbit, Owl, or Eeyore who struggle to make sense in their own thoughtful way:
"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."
Yet, the human experience is lived in the construction of meaning. We struggle to put our experiences in labeled boxes and neatly file them away on the shelves of the schemas that we have co-created in the relational experiences between and within ourselves.
Therefore, I am connected to my friend the beaver today…and she is connected to me. And our existence is intertwined in some naturally occurring phenomena of existence. Yet, I have control over how I respond to my encounter with another. My fear and ignorance is my choice.
So, I am here in the safety of my family room, watching this frightened friend and thinking of how we humans make so many decisions based on fear and ignorance...and wonder what it would be like to function in love, compassion, and respect for all living creatures? I wonder what it would be like to just enjoy the “sweetness that is life”?
It is with those thoughts still swirling in my head that I remember the pictures sent by my student today and I am grateful for the lovely reminder that …well…some us do!