Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Day with the Downys

Big changes are on my horizon.  In a melancholy mood on Tuesday, I did something I rarely do.  Nothing.  Work stopped for a while.  And I sat.  Alone with my thoughts, and my feathered friends. 

Have you ever really observed wild birds?  Not just watched them fly, but really paid attention to the details of their daily lives?  I went to avian university yesterday and what I came away with changed my life and my belief about the animal kingdom.

Bon Bon Pond is home to a large number of Downy Woodpeckers.  These beautiful black and white birds have designated the front yard Mountain Ash as some sort of gathering spot.  For over an hour I watched, mesmerized, as pairs of Downys would pause from feeding to return to the tree to meet up with their partner for what I can only describe as a “kiss.”  Time after time after time I witnessed the same ritual.  The male, with the red spot on his head, would fly away to consume suet, the female, would also wing out to eat.  Yet mere moments later they would rendezvous back at the Ash and touch beaks.  It seemed they could only bear to be apart for a matter of minutes.  Pair after pair repeated this pattern.

These public displays of loyalty, love and devotion deeply touched my heart and made me call into question the conclusion of many experts that animals do not have feelings per se  but rather respond according to instinct.  Many major religions deny animals a place in  heaven claiming they have no soul.

Anthropomorphism is the scientific term for ascribing  human characteristics to animals but I believe this concept is flawed.  Who determined that love and loyalty and devotion are “human” traits?  Psychologists and psychiatrists can attest that not all Homo sapiens practice these lofty ideals.

Do not misunderstand.  I do not doubt that ingrained instinct plays an important part in the animal kingdom.  My point is rather  these sentient beings are far more complicated.  I believe the correct phraseology is “more than the sum of their parts.”

Think, once, what would happen if it could be proved and/or recognized that animals are capable of mankind’s highest virtue:  the ability to love and be loved.  Talk about an Inconvenient Truth! The world would change overnight.  I’m not talking about PETA protests and such but rather a profound revelation among the human race.  A spiritual awakening and acceptance to animals’ rightful place in the Kingdom of God.

Apprehend God  in all things,
for God is in all things.

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.

Every creature is a word of God.

If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature--
even a caterpillar--

I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.

-Meister Eckhart (1260-1329)

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