I went to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the M-Shed. I looked intently at all the pictures bar one. I read all the captions diligently. Bar one. Until I thought of writing this post. Then I sought it out.
There is a picture in the photojournalism section of a macaque with its hand on the painted, hatted mask over its head: the Sad Clown, taken by Joan de la Malla.
A macaque is a type of monkey. A chain runs from its neck to its owner's hand. Its sweatshirt attire clashes with its furry arms. Clown is written on the hat. It isn't in English. It doesn't need to be, the crude red-nosed wide-mouthed face paint design is enough. It looks like it is made of metal, but may be of another material. Perhaps it was only on the monkey's head for a few minutes, perhaps it was on its head for hours. All I know is the image was too painful for me to look at. A power in the call of the animal as it touches the mask, as it cannot reach its own face. A pathos, confusion, disconcerted humiliation. Without moving it, I feel my own hand coming up against the mask instead of my face.
I'm sad because I cannot take the mask off and free the monkey.
I cry because the boy has made a clown out of the monkey and I feel pain for the monkey.
It is my belief that we need to recognise to a far greater extent that animals not only are beings with feelings, but that they are psychological beings, very like us. With all the vagaries of species, they experience parental bonding, attachment, grief, delight, ... They suffer nervous breakdowns, depression, panic, separation anxiety, confusion, they know fear and it would seem they sometimes even seek suicide. Just as we take our own psychological needs more seriously, we have a duty to treat them with respect accordingly.
I feel pain when I see or hear of the pain of others, animal or human, physical, mental or emotional. I find it physically distressing, even if I can never know the depth of their pain. I know many of us do. You cry too.
I always remember learning from the Bible that Jesus said what we do unto others, we do unto Him. I have often thought this is meant to apply to all of us: what we do unto others, we do unto ourselves, what others do unto others is also done unto us, bringing pain or joy.
We are all intrinsically connected, entwined within one multi-dimensional nervous system. If we can acknowledge this, we can change our world by changing our behaviour through mutual respect and self-care, caring for our own well-being not individualistically, but in the context of a connected whole.
When I say all, I speak of human beings, animals, insects, plants, all living matter.
Human beings present themselves as intelligent with pride and arrogance, dividing themselves from the rest of livingness. Our intelligence is promoted in how it enables us to create buildings, financial systems, computers, effect surgery, speak multiple languages, etc but its ability to access wisdom is very under-valued.
My teacher and animal communicator James French has developed a practice called the Trust Technique, which he teaches is available to all. Check out James' website. I always drop into wonder when I see the connection he enables. It is a patient approach which achieves positive results in speedier times than could be envisaged using standard approaches. A brilliant example of the tortoise winning the race instead of the hare. Do watch his videos, and share!
There is speak of the consequences of climate change.
My friend Charlotte said something wonderful the other day: "We won't solve our environmental problems until we can hug a tree without being a hippy!"
for climate change, where it is affected by human activity, is a manifestation of a deeper circumstance
a belief in our separateness
a loss of honouring
a loss of sensitivity
a loss of taking time.
We need to slow down.
We need to slooww doowwn.
We need to slooww right dowwn.
We need to turn our heads and look at the rose,
notice ourselves seeing it,
taking that seeing right back inside us,
seeing the rose with its bundle of petals,
noticing the soft velvet coating of a petal
and the light shining from the drop of water on its fold.
Taking all that inside,
feeling ourselves digest that seeing
that it becomes a part of us,
made of the same material mass
stemming from the same energy source.
may we realise we are not separate.
What affects others affects us too
The planet, people, animals and all living things
vibrate to the same pulse.
When we dress a monkey in clown costume and parade him on a chain
we do not honour the monkey, and we do not honour ourselves.