Here I sit, looking out my front window with a cup of tea in my hand. I see
a beautiful bluejay swoop out of a tree in that characteristic 'W' flight
pattern and perch itself a few feet away. "What a beautiful bird," I think
… at least, I think this until it opens its mouth to release the most
awful sound… a sound that is a blend of a primeval scream and an annoying
Think it is just coincidence that the word banshee and blue jay both start
with the letter 'B'? I think not.
Now, I realize that despite what some people may say, a bluejay's features
were not designed for my pleasure or entertainment… or even my "benefit
and use", but it is surprising that such a pretty bird can make such a
hellish sound. Daddy, what is a mosquito for?
That question doesn't make sense. They are here because they can survive long enough to reproduce. Not an inspiring answer, but viewing the creatures around us in terms of how it benefits or harms me isn't very inspiring either.
Strangely, this got me thinking about this whole struggle between the
humans and the animals-- a war that has been raging for thousands of years.
I guess it isn't that much of a leap if you have ever had one of these
Birds from Hell perch outside your bedroom window and shriek for a
half-hour until all hope of sleeping in on a Saturday morning vanish.
One of the first to identify this cosmic battle was the Egyptians who
classified the duel between order (civilized man) and chaos
(nature). This perspective seems to have influenced other nearby cultures,
including the Zoroastrians and the author of the first chapter of Genesis.
This is why the prevalent perspective of the "People of the Book" have the
concept that God gave man the world as a gift to "subdue and have dominion"
over the natural world.
Contrast this with some of the Eastern perspectives where humans are not
above or below the natural world, but one with it. While there is
not a single source that others refer to illustrate this point, one of my
favorites is from Te-ch'ing, the 16th century Buddhist writer who made the
following comment about the Tao Te Ching:
To know what truly endures is to know that Heaven and Earth
share the same root, that the ten thousand things [the World] share one
body, and that there is no difference between self and others.
Now, my point is not to brand one perspective good and the other evil, but
this connected-ness seems to me to be more than just a metaphysical
concept. Of course, we are all connected via the environment, since we
breath the same air and drink the same water. But our guts are the same, as
the creatures that I eat, and ate other creatures that will eventually eat me,
so that we pass the same molecules around and around ad nauseaum.
The atoms in my body were created in some distant
star and have been used by many plants and animals for millions of years.
But there is a bit more to this connected-ness.
I tend to look at an ant colony as a creature made up of individual cells
called ants. The loss of a single ant is similar to the loss of cells when
clipping my fingernails. Same with a bee hive or a bacteria infection…
perhaps humanity is also a creature made up of cells, we called humans…
This brings up another thought from another Buddhist, Shunryu Suzuki page 122 from his book, Not Always So :
It is just your mind that says you are here and I am there,
that's all. Originally we are one with everything. If someone dies you may
say he is no more, but is it possible for something to vanish completely?
That is not possible, and it is not possible for something to appear all of
a sudden from nothing… It can change its form, that's all. So we are
Not only do my dead cells get re-assimilated back into the world, but my
perhaps my thoughts and ideas live on after I die… to perhaps plague more readers of
my web site. Later on the same page, Suzuki continues:
Wherever you are, you are one with the clouds and one with the
sun and the stars that you see. Even if you jump out of the airplane, you
don't go anywhere else. You are still one with everything.
One with the sun? The light rays from the sun, not only gets impregnated
into your eye when you look at it, the energy is infused into the plants
that we eat.
If we thought we were an integral part of our families, our communities,
our country, our world… with all of the cosmos, how would we act and
react with the other parts?
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