2 January 2008

Learn something new every day

Filed under: Ponderings

As I grow older, I think, well at least I hope, I grow wiser. The adage that you learn something new every day is trite, but still very true.

I am an avid animal lover, as those of you who know me well, which in this venue I would like to think is most of you, know. I have four cats under my care currently. Yes, I said “under my care”. What does that mean, I hear you ask. Why did you say that? Why did you put it that way?

I don’t own these animals. I can’t own them, they are not property. They are living, sentient beings in my care. I feed them, give them shelter and love them. In return, they give me love (some more so than others, but that’s just how cats are) and make me happy. Not one day goes by that I don’t look at one of them and smile, or feel a little ping of love in my chest when I pet them. They bring me immense joy. I am enriched by their presence both in my house and in my life. Not a week goes by that I don’t say to one of them “I am so glad to know you”, (and no, they don’t answer).

So, it has always puzzled me, when I go to the vet, or have some other interaction that involves them somehow, when people say “are you their owner?”. No. Of course not. How can I own them? The idea seems ludicrous and backwards to me, akin to my owning a person.

This philosophy has now been expanded for me thanks to a book I read yesterday called Ishmael given to me by a friend who was touched by it as well.

What right do I have to the earth? Do I own this land my house sits on? Do I own the orange tree that is towering over me as I write this? Do I own the birds in that tree? What cosmic right has been given to me, just another mammal, to take ownership over these things?

I no more own the land this structure (that will be gone in 100 years at most) sits on than I could own the air that surrounds it, or the tree growing by it, or…my cats.

It seems so obvious to me now, but yesterday, I hadn’t ever considered it. I am not the end of my species’ evolutionary path. The earth was not created for the use (and plundering) of homo sapiens sapiens any more than it was created for the rock doves chiriping on my porch or my little girl kitten chirping back at them.

This is dangerously close to a “spaceship earth” kind of tirade, I realize. However, now I feel that perhaps that argument is closer to the truth than not.

We are at a pivotal time in both our history as a civilization and as a species. This place, this planet, was not created for us by some magical sky wizard in 144 hours about 5,800 years ago for our use. We are not the pinnacle of evolution who can do what we want with this place. We are not here to be the conclusion of growth on this world, but we may end up causing it.

Just as it is my responsibility to feed, care for and be a guardian to the animals in my care, it is our responsibility to feed, care for and be guardians to this world that we call home.

That is what I learned today.

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