When I watched this video of lab dogs touching grass and seeing sun for the first time in their lives, it brought up for me something that has been alive in my heart my whole life and something I feel each and every day. It is one of the reasons I spend so much time alone – not to escape the harsh realities of life but to work on the various ways I am working toward changing these things.
I follow the video with some thoughts – you can watch the video and not read or you can read and not watch or you can do both or neither. What I am going to talk about is very personal to me.
While this video is so beautiful and I am so thrilled that there are people rescuing them, the fact that these beagles are even in a lab points to what a disconnected conceptual framework our society lives in. To lock animals up and experiment on them, to not let them have the basic experience of the essence of their life form, is incredibly disconnected.
I am not advocating against animal experimentation. I am advocating for better science, better methods, more love, more connection.
Whatever it is that informs our conceptual framing of reality that says that this (what the video points to) is okay – is rational, is necessary – is flawed. It lacks imagination and heart and connection.
Again, I am not advocating against anything, including animal experimentation, eating animals, etc.
What I am advocating for is to challenge whatever is in you, you personally, that justifies harming, ignoring the suffering of, or taking the freedom of any living being in a way that is cruel. (I emphasize “cruel” because the idealistic leap of not causing any suffering given the complex reality of our current global situation feels just too extreme an ideal to me right now.)
Obviously, the parameters of this is something each of us must examine for ourselves. But it starts by challenging the assumptions from which we live and by cultivating respect for life and a sense of connection.
If you cannot feel in your body how wrong it is for other beings to suffer, something is not developed, not awake in you. I do not say this as a criticism. I say this as a fact.
An open heart, an embodied, awake person, feels how wrong the diminishment and objectification of any life is.
I am not saying a person is bad. I am not saying a person is anything other than not awake in their bodies and hearts. We have the intelligence and technology to live in a way that causes much less suffering and simply requires an embodied shift in how we think of ourselves and the world in which we live.
The current conceptual frameworks we use are flawed.
Why is it wrong or scary or hard to live from the heart and to care about all of life? I ask this not as an accusation but as a genuine question – a serious inquiry. The emotionalism that often goes with this topic is not one I share. I don’t wish to vilify anyone or scream or polarize. I am suggesting that we upgrade.
I do not know why life is not inherently sacred to everyone. I mean this most sincerely. Why we are afraid of “other” even if it’s a spider or a shark to the point that we allow fear to determine harmful action?
Testing on animals is a very disconnected practice. It has its roots in philosophies that are out-dated and irrelevant given current scientific knowledge, yet we are still in the contorted illusion of their spell.
The mind and the body are not separate. There is no pure reason, separate from the body, and everything seems to be connected to everything else.
Why then do we live day in and day out like things are otherwise? We make decisions, we rationalize, we ignore, and we deny using flawed conceptual frameworks.
What is so repugnant about the heart (I use “heart” as a metaphor for our feeling consciousness) that we cannot live from it?
Why the distrust? Why the childish shame about the fact that you care, that I care, that we care?
I have been deeply disturbed since I was very young at the things I see around me – the disconnected and cruel way people live. There is rarely ever a need or reason to harm, to diminish, another life. (Again, I say this with emphasis on the context of cruelty.)
I genuinely do not understand a human devoid of awe. I genuinely do not understand a human devoid of a sense of connection. I genuinely do not understand a human who refuses to care.
I say all of this from a place not of judgement, but from the innocence of a heart that has not been tainted. And with a genuine, deep desire to grasp whatever contributes to these things in this world.
Intellectual arrogance that enables separation and cruelty is true stupidity. The superior mind will create solutions that do not harm because a superior mind is informed by the fullness of a wholly embodied self that does not reject the reality of their own animalness, the miracle of life, their thread in the fabric of existence.
I am all for spirituality and personal growth, but we MUST challenge the assumptions we live in and, if we find them justifying behaviors and beliefs that allow us to remain disconnected and disrespectful of any other life form, we must deepen the work we do and upgrade, or eliminate, whatever is in us that allows us to not care.
And this must be done in a way that does not create the ridiculous avalanche of overwhelm, the “I can’t save the world so why bother?” argument. We must avoid this kind of thinking that renders the heart impotent.
I believe the Dalai Lama said something like “Do good and don’t hurt anyone.” If we include the “anyone” to mean all of life, then I think that’s something we could practice, and possibly never master, our whole lives – but what a humble and noble way to live.
I find humankind incredibly, painfully, myopically arrogant and it is just so sad that we think we are rulers of the universe because, as a whole, we do not have anything near the maturity needed to wield the kind of power we have.
I am speaking of the overarching effect we, as a mass, as a spreading glob of doom, have on this planet and every living thing on it. And while this mass is an entropic force that can appear and feel beyond genuine reformation, I truly, truly believe that the individual, you and me and you and you and you, when we allow our hearts to come alive, has not the “power” but the effect of changing the world.
When we confront these issues with an idea of power, that we do or do not have power, we obfuscate the very real ways we can impact the world. In a very real sense I am powerless against many things. But this is an irrelevant fact given the transformative and often invisible effect of living from the heart, of caring.
Because the beauty of the impact of love is so often drowned out by the noise of fear and hate and war and poverty it is too easy to miss the signs of love that are everywhere. And when we live with an attachment to seeing that we are having an impact, we also limit our ability to see the effect that our love has on the world – by focusing on what we expect to see, we miss seeing the other ripples of our caring.
Love is more powerful than any force I have ever seen or experienced. There is magic in it. And all any of us has to do is get out of its way. It’s really not that complicated.
I know for some people it will be easy to dismiss my views as naive or unsophisticated. That is the sad state of a guarded and buried heart. I think that being awake to the realities of this world is a dimensional proposition. And I think it is cowardly to focus on the pain and disconnection disproportionate to the love and beauty. I am not suggesting we wear rainbow glasses. I am suggesting we move beyond such polarities and grow big enough to love, shamelessly, in spite of them.
To not love in the face of great obstacles is to live small and defeated. By small I do not mean tiny, I mean un-mighty. You and I may be too little for the change the world needs, but the love in us is not. And when we open to that love it transforms us into vessels of might and light and healing that not even the most imaginative of us can foresee.
Let your heart feel the pain of caring – do not it shut down – practice sitting with it, not running from it, and it will begin to stretch you and you will grow your capacity to handle more and more love. As you do, your behavior will change, your thinking will change, and you will give and do and be more in this world.
Alright, so you’ve made it this far. You deserve a summarization.
My main argument is really simple: Give a shit. It’s good for you and it’s good for the planet.
If you haven’t, I do hope you watch the video and maybe send the organization who is doing this work $1.00 or $100.00 dollars.
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