The Power of a New Word: What Deepens and Clarifies Our Readiness to Feel, Hold, and Cherish Our World Can Save Us

Learning a new word can galvanize our thinking and reveal feelings and realities once deeply buried. Of course, the ability to think, speak, and write in an organized language itself does this in extraordinarily complex and diverse ways. Language becomes such an integral part of us it can filter and augment all we experience. Once conceived and developed, human languages revolutionized all of history. Maybe, in a small way, learning certain new words can also be revolutionary.

 

Just recently, I have found this to be so. Susan Murphy, in her new book A Fire Runs Through All Things: Zen Koans For Facing The Climate Crisis, gifts us with important insights and powerful new words. One such word is hyperobject, coined by philosopher Timothy Morton. The term refers to unfolding processes that are beyond the scale to which our human comprehension has evolved. The processes are almost impossible to pin down and block our normal methods for sensing and responding to danger. But are all such processes dangerous? Aren’t many healing and creative?

 

The danger posed by climate change is one such hyperobject. In our new situation today, human life in large scale societies, maybe all life, is endangered by the climate shifts and instability that we’re already experiencing; and it’s getting worse.

 

But I’d argue that the danger posed by DJT, with his cronies and devotees, is a close second. The two are arguably inter-related, as the second increases the depth of the first. And in neither case can we, nor have we as a people comprehended the danger.

 

I don’t think many of us in the U.S., maybe more so for those of us privileged by this culture, have really comprehended what life under DJT would be like. Maybe many people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and others have unfortunately an easier time imagining the oppressive possibility. They might better imagine what life would be like with such a violent person in charge who’s trying to be a dictator, who expounds hate as a political tactic and puts his own cravings and image as more important than anyone else’s life or sanity.

 

Can we imagine a government that considers truth and science as unimportant or a threat? That rips away the rights and constitutionally protected political voice of the people? That destroys the rule of law and robs all of us who are not active supporters of DJT of the legal assumption of innocence unless proved guilty?

 

But at the same time, there’s enough of the “old” world left to provide the entertainments, consumerism, distractions that helped foster the crisis we face. There’s an entire virtual world available to encourage us to hide from reality. We can see, smell, and read about damaging fires, floods, hurricanes, wars, etc., notice the shifting and diminishing animal populations and extinctions. Notice the horrors of DJT threatening judges and their children and displaying manufactured images of President Biden in chains dumped in the back of a pickup truck.

 

And then we watch tv, a movie, or sporting event or get involved in social media and everything feels “normal” again….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Transformative Moments with Trees: The Limits of Usefulness and the Beauty of Imperfection

My wife and I live in rural America on a dirt road on a sometimes-steep hill. Near our home, rising out of a steep bank, is an old red maple tree whose extensive root structure was torn open years ago when the road department widened the road to accommodate large snowplows. Many of us who live in the neighborhood resisted this move very loudly, because the trees lining the road were beautiful and made the road look so ancient.  A neighbor, inspired by other activists in the news at the time, tied herself to one of the trees.

 

But the resistance was short-lived. The crews with chain saws, excavating machines, backhoes, etc. came up the road cutting trees and carving out the banks. Exposing the roots of this one large tree which remains there even today as a reminder.

 

Sometimes, when I focus on the tree, it looks beyond sad. I feel a vulnerability, a pain constantly renewed, a wound that can never heal.  A wound that we humans caused, we humans with our frequent disregard for the health of the earth we depend on. Other times, the roots look very different, look like a secret layer from underneath the surface of the earth, a mystery that had been exposed. Unseen by us, there’s layers of possibly infinite interconnections all twisted and woven together. This is what we stand on.

 

Or maybe the two viewpoints are really one. Maybe there’s an infinite layer of vulnerability and pain, life and death woven into everything. And the pain is what we feel when we can’t sense the infinite weave.

 

We built our house room by room many years ago, in an old, abandoned apple orchard, fitting it in-between trees so we wouldn’t have to cut any. Outside our front door is one that is probably over 100 years old. It barely holds itself together anymore. Its trunk has a large hole running through its center and only three medium-large branches are left alive. It has some blossoms every spring but no edible fruit. Yet, it persists, and we can’t bear to cut it down.

 

Our cats would object strenuously if we did. They depend on the tree as a ladder to the roof and the second story of the house, where their cat window is placed. They love siting on a limb of the tree and looking down at the wildlife that enters the yard. The tree also provides some shade to the front of the house keeping it cool.

 

One morning years ago, when we had almost completed the first room of the house, and the tree was younger and still bearing fruit, I went out to feed the birds. We had a feeder, but also scattered seeds on the ground. This was before we had any pets. A few birds quickly appeared. The first was a chickadee. Maybe the tree had been feeding it for years, so when I held out a hand open with seeds, one bird flew into it to grab some food and fly off.  I was so excited; I offered my hand again. And the bird, or some bird, returned. Maybe the birds saw us as kin to trees.

 

The tree speaks to us, although at a frequency beyond our hearing, but not beyond our feeling. It speaks of a bond between us. I used to clean old bark off the tree every spring, which exposed new growth. It felt to me that the tree took it as a massage, because afterwards it always looked refreshed, more colorful, and alive. I don’t know if that feeling was in the tree or in me, or maybe there was no difference. Maybe this was what the tree spoke to me about. About silent bonds. About living for relationships. Maybe because of my affection for the tree, it felt like the tree had affection for me….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

A Primal Sort of Love, A Primal Sort of Prayer: When Our Eyes and Ears Become Heart-Shaped

We all know days when the world seems caught under a gray sky. When there’s no sun anywhere and the air itself feels like a light rain or snow. When so much feels at risk and wars rage. The world storms⎼ and then gets quiet. And aside from the sound of wind and the falling rain, all is silent.

 

And I realized that here, too, inside the house, in me, it’s gray. Not just the sky but the trees, the flowers, the furniture, the walls. Everything. The air around me and the air inside me speaks a gray language. And I stop dreading and almost welcome this new language. It becomes an “old friend.”

 

It’s too easy to forget these relationships amongst everything, this interconnection. But if we notice this, this gray outside meeting the gray inside, actually the possibility of joy increases. We better perceive what we give attention to. We open eyes, nose, ears, mouths, minds to whatever. By feeling presence, we can meet not just the world outside but inside. We care.

 

Just a few minutes after realizing this, I looked out the window at the sky. It was late afternoon, early evening. And there was some blue in the sky, just a hint, a bit of white and a space of blue emerging from behind gray clouds. Then lines of pink and the red sky of the end of day.

 

I turn and look in the room around me. A wooden chair, the oak flooring, a white lamp. On the wall is a piece of art. It’s a woodblock print we found years ago, by a Japanese artist named Kawase Hasui. The artwork is called Morning at Tsuchiura. It depicts an ancient wood boat tied to a tree on the shore of a river. And the color of water, which just a moment before looked, yes, grayish, is now more clearly and deeply several shades of blue. And the reflection of the boat in the water is so remarkable and alive. One minute gray. The next, blue. Maybe by looking and feeling so intently one moment, the next moment is deepened, too.

 

I notice this happens after concentrated exercise or meditation, as well as stopping and simply letting my gaze linger on something. The mind sharpens when we feed it with focused, mindful attention on our breath or what’s around us.

 

And something more. The patience to just look. When I’m angry, for example, or afraid, or anxious, and filled with dislike, it’s like my senses are too jumpy or too focused on some thought, or fear, worry to see the reality before me. The fear, anxiety, dislike push the physical world away to replace it with a world of thought.

 

But when we can take the time to pause, to feel⎼ when we’re not so consumed by the news or whatever, and we can possibly feel grief for the world without getting overwhelmed⎼ we can let our eyes and ears become heart shaped. And the colors, sounds, scents, the feel of everything comes closer and sharpens.

 

When we do this, when we listen to what comforts us, maybe it’s the geese calling, or the wind⎼ when we listen so deeply that we hear the movement of water, trees, grasses, and birds in it, and we hear cars and people and our own responses to all the movement in it, we have a new sensitivity….

 

*To read the whole piece, please go to the Good Men Project.

Reading, and Sensing an Immense World: It Takes a Universe

A wonderful friend and former colleague recommended a book to me that I found fascinating. It’s called An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong. It speaks to so many issues and concerns of our world today.

 

We both live the truth, and an illusion. The world we perceive can be so clear, immediate, and vital to us. Yet it sits imbedded in innumerable other worlds, universes, though we don’t and can’t perceive almost any of them. We mistake what we see for all that is there. What we perceive is not the world but one our human brain and body have evolved to perceive.

 

For example, Yong points out that we humans “cannot sense the faint electric fields that sharks and platypuses can…[nor] the magnetic fields that robins and sea turtles detect.” Our ears can’t hear the ultrasonic calls of hummingbirds or the infrasonic speech of elephants and whales. We can’t perceive the infrared radiation that is the heart of what snakes detect or the ultraviolet light birds and bees sense every moment.

 

Each species has what Yong, borrowing from Baltic-German zoologist Jakob von Uexkull, called an umwelt or perceptual world. A tick does not perceive a tree, green leaves, blue skies. It doesn’t ignore them. It simply is incapable of sensing or knowing them; they are outside its umwelt. Likewise, we can’t sense the tick’s world.

 

Too often we ignore, or are ignorant of these co-existing realties, and we harm other species by imposing our perceptual system bias on them. For example, our submarines use underwater noises that confuse whales and drown out their calls. The glass panes in our homes appear as bodies of water to a bat’s sonar. We hurt our cats and dogs by interfering in their use of their primary sense activity, sniffing, and unknowingly impose our human visual bias on them.

 

If we can’t understand what the other worlds are like to live in, Yong points out maybe we can use our reason and imagination to honor and recognize them. For example, we can imaginatively enter the world of a dog, or even more so, an elephant. Scents, unlike light, do not move in straight lines. They go around corners, up and down, swirl, and twist in all directions. Humans have fine noses. But a dog not only has more sense receptors, a larger olfactory bulb and scent-brain than we do, but a more complicated nasal structure.

 

When we humans exhale, we purge odors from our nose. But each nostril of a dog is divided in two so it can exhale carbon dioxide while inhaling more aromas. This is one reason they can detect low blood sugar levels or tumors in humans or discern a single fingerprint on a microscopic slide even after it was outdoors for a week. They can smell in the air an oncoming storm.

 

For dogs, everything around them includes the scent not only of what’s here, now, but the past and future. And smell has the most direct link to the brain of any sense. And since that link goes right to the brain’s emotional center, I imagine their world is dominated by emotions. Some might doubt the rich emotional lives of many animals but this science argues otherwise….

 

*To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

 

Do We Love Ourselves Enough, and Love the World Enough to Save It? When We Feel a Hole in the Center of Our Lives, Loving Action Can Heal It

We know this. So much climate suffering. Droughts. Then rains. Then dangerous smog from fires. Then heat, heat domes so large and deep people are not just sweltering but burning. Dying. And it’s increasing. We are burning our earth around us. The earth itself is crying out to us. The city of Phoenix had over 19 days straight days of 110 degrees or more. Residents of south Florida might be tempted to swim in the ocean to cool off from the extreme heat, but the ocean temperature itself is about 100 degrees. We can, we need to do all we can to stop the policies, the ways of thinking and behaving that contribute to global warming.

 

And our leaders? I don’t agree with all that President Biden has done, or not done. But he has given us and our earth a chance. He has pushed helpful legislation for the environment, and  accomplished a great deal that benefits most of us⎼ for the economy and international situation, but so much more is needed. And he’s managed to do this despite a political opposition not seen since possibly the Civil War, and so virulent that many denied that he fairly and legally won the presidency. Several GOP lawmakers even supported a violent insurrection against him. Many news outlets severely under-report his accomplishments.

 

The GOP in general have no shame, or care about the state of the world; don’t care about our rights, health, children, or the democracy they are sworn to serve. One of their favored governors stated some blacks benefitted from being slaves. They let free their own hate, lusts, and other unethical behavior, while they act to restrict the right to vote to young, black, brown people. To take away a woman’s right to control her own health. They lie about who they are, and so much else, including the science of climate change.

 

Their leader is a 2-time, and soon, possibly, a 4-time indicted criminal, liar, and sexual abuser who in public conspired to stop an election and end democracy. He continually  threatens violence against anyone who opposes him. He uses hate to serve his own personal aims, uses misogyny or hate against women, hate of black, brown, Asian, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ+ people. Maybe all those not white, Christian, patriarchal.

 

DJT even told us what he would do if he regained the White House. Historian Michael Beschloss described his goal as a “presidential dictatorship.” Others have labeled his goal as White Nationalism or Fascism/Nazism. The New York Times reports he and the GOP plan to expand the power of the President so deeply that his authority would cover every part of government.  They want the power to regulate the economy, control the Department of Justice, the courts, and dictate to Congress. All members of government agencies and bureaucracies would be chosen according to one principle—their allegiance to him, not to competence, not ethics. If we want a passport, loan, building permit, etc. we’d first have to pass a loyalty test.

 

This would convert the mission of the government to one goal⎼ to exert DJT’s narcissism, to free his lust for power and sense of entitlement so it covers the whole earth. And all of us, all creatures, would serve him. His followers think he would bring them freedom. But the only freedom they’d have is to serve him while expressing their grievances at the wrong people. This is almost unbelievable; but if we can stomach listening to him we can judge this for ourselves….

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

Compassion Is a Key to Understanding: When the Sky Is Burning and the Earth is Coughing

There’s no rain, no rain clouds. It hasn’t rained more than a few drops for a month. Yet it’s midday and the sky is dark as dusk. But not that dark blue-grey verging on night black, but a red-orange gray, a color I’ve never seen before. Almost unnatural, certainly unusual; a color with a warning attached, a threat. Unnerving.

 

And the smell of the air is like fire, like burning leaves, trees, or garbage, and it tastes crunchy, topped with ashes. At first, yesterday, we only smelled and tasted it outdoors. But today, it has seeped indoors. Even the color has seeped in. No escape.

 

Over the last few days, it has gone from a health alert to an advisory, to hazardous. “Do not go outside for any unnecessary activity.” And if you do, wear a mask. This is one thing that COVID

has prepared us for.

 

Canada, especially Quebec and Ottawa, is burning. People in California, the Northwest and Southwest, have known this sky too well, along with people in many other areas of the world. And here in the US, in the Northeast, Northern Midwest, now we, unfortunately, also see and feel it. Our homes, workplaces, communities of nature are not burning, now, yet we share this burning sky, this coughing earth. New York City, for example, experienced the worst air quality it’s had on record.

 

Before this happened, when the days were clear, the sky blue and a fresh taste in the air, it might’ve been difficult to accept the reality of global warming. Now, it’s difficult to escape the taste of ash. The rich can mitigate it better than the poor, hide more comfortably, get faster and better treatment for scorched lungs, infected stomachs, stress. Yet, we all can be infected. Something else this climate emergency shares with COVID: we’re all in this together. When the earth itself is threatened, we’re all united in vulnerability, in no escape.

 

Yet yesterday, despite having read and written blogs about the climate emergency, I had a difficult time taking in and accepting what my senses were telling me. Yesterday, I went for a walk on my rural road. I had been somewhat aware that I should only take a short, moderately paced walk. But during the walk, a neighbor, driving home in the late afternoon, stopped her car to offer me a mask. I thanked her, we talked, then she drove on. And it hit me. I had not acknowledged the threat. I took off my hat and used it as a leaky mask. Today, no walk.

 

My wife also wouldn’t accept the reality of what she was feeling. She was gardening without a mask. She was already freaked out by the drought. Looking at, acknowledging the taste, color, and smell of the sky was too much for her to do.

 

But we have to acknowledge, accept it. ‘Accept’ meaning take in, look directly at what’s happening. The earth itself is burning, getting sick, coughing at us⎼ this is a warning. Take it seriously. Do more.

 

Do more to learn what we can do. Do more to hear what the earth itself is saying and what our own bodies are telling us….

 

*To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Companions Who Walk with Us Moment by Moment

COVID has been devastating to our communities and culture, terrifying to so many of us. But it had one positive result for me, and others. Our relationship with other species in our neighborhoods was enriched. As we became more distanced from other people, birds, turkeys, fox, peepers, possum, deer, bear, rabbits, eagles, owls⎼ all our non-human neighbors, depending on where we lived, jumped more frequently to the center of our attention, and became, sort of, friends.

 

Of course, the bear that crushed our bird feeder one early morning and knocked on our front door was a little scary and we had to chase it away. And one night at about 3:00 am one of our cats stood up on our bed, hissed loudly, and woke us up to a raccoon coming in the cat door. The raccoon got stuck and I had to push him out with an oak cane.

 

In the spring morning, the gold and purple finches, cardinals, and red winged black birds added color and songs to the air, and later, the peepers such comfort. And taking walks with such companions as oak trees leaning against each other to speak, and ravens coughing as they flew overhead added wonders to my day.

 

But hearing about the climate emergency and the extinction crisis we face⎼ I felt so bereft. I felt such grief over the increasing instability of nature itself, weather disasters, and the loss of species ⎼ for example, frogs, peepers, and salamanders, about one-third of amphibians ⎼ 12% of bird species, all threatened with extinction, as well as ash trees which used to fill the forests near my home. We must all take this emergency very seriously.

 

These species are not just companions. They are intimate mirrors of our lives and mental state that we can see them everywhere. The deep red of the Japanese maple in the garden, which is more of a bush than a tree⎼ what amazing feeling is right there. A crow flies overhead and its harsh call echoes in our body.

 

We often think of ourselves as located behind these two eyes, a mind isolated in this shell of a body, a shell within a shell within a shell. And only within this shell can we locate what is most intimately ourselves. Or we think of the red color and harsh call as coming from “outside” us.

 

Yet, is not that Japanese maple and the crow also, in some way, intimately ourselves?

Don’t we carry those colors and sounds in us? We don’t just hear and see and feel them. We give them life. The red of the cardinal is how our mind gifts color to the electromagnetic or light waves bouncing off the bird’s breast. Color is the way we perceive a wavelength of light to which our eyes are sensitive.

 

The harshness of the crow’s voice is how our mind translates the sound wave frequencies emitted by the bird. That red, that song is intimately us. No us, no song, just wavelengths.

Because conscious perception is awareness aware of itself, it simultaneously looks within as it looks out. It is a deeply felt mystery that we live. When we stop playing the shell game, the world is most intimately ourselves.

 

*To read the whole article, please go to the Good Men Project.

 

Who Are We? The Way We interpret An Action Determines How We Respond to It

How can we best understand ourselves and our history as a species? We humans have created so much violence, environmental degradation, inequality. Yet, we’ve also created incredible art, science, and love relationships. How do we emotionally and otherwise take in these absurd contradictions?

 

This is not just an intellectual question. It’s a huge and infinitely complex one. It concerns the nature of our mind and body, what we’ve inherited from parents or biological evolution, and what by history and cultural evolution. It has tremendous social-political implications as well as personal. It can affect how we feel about, and how much suffering we cause, ourselves and others.

 

Three friends from college and I zoom together once or twice a month. We often share poems, music, articles, suggestions, and questions. One recently shared article was particularly relevant to this question. It’s by Adam Kirsch and published in the January/February Atlantic. It’s titled The People Cheering for Humanity’s End: A disparate Group of Thinkers Says We Should Welcome Our Demise. It focuses on two opposing theories of where our species is headed, or where our evolutionary traits are driving us.

 

Most of us realize that the possibility of extinction is very real but would prefer to delay that ending as long as possible. But Kirsch says a variety of thinkers have challenged that assumption and revolted against humanity itself. The two most prominent of these theories are Anthropocene anti-humanism and Transhumanism.

 

The first states that our self-destruction is inevitable, but we should welcome it. Our species is destroying our home and the other creatures we share it with. What we most glorify in us, namely our reason and the scientific and technological achievements it spawns, is precisely what is destroying us. To preserve our home, we should leave it.

 

The second theory, Transhumanism, expresses a love for what the anti-humanists decry. Transhumanists imagine that some of our most recent and illustrious discoveries, like nanotechnology, and genetic engineering, will save us by allowing us to abandon the frail, destructive being we are now in favor of a new species that we’ve created. For example, a cyborg or hybrid of human and computer; or maybe a brand-new artificial intelligence.

 

Both theories are responses to the climate emergency we face, but they do so in opposite directions except, says Kirsch, the most fundamental. They both share the necessity for the demise of humans. And as I read the article and thought about my friends, what became clear was how our theories about life, and ourselves, are key to our responses, and actions. And this quality of mind and heart is precisely what most makes us human.

 

The theories, at least as far as I understand them from the article by Kirsch, do not deal enough with “why”— why do we act so destructively? Or, since it’s not all of us, why do so many of us act so destructively? Is it Ignorance? Self-centeredness? Greed?

 

Or maybe we’ve been so destructive due to patterns of thought and behavior inherited through cultural evolution as opposed to traits we’ve inherited through biological evolution. Has every human culture been so destructive? Maybe a culture that preaches we’re created in the image of God ⎼ that we must be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over all the earth and over every creeping thing ⎼ might be more narcissistic and less attracted by stewardship, less willing to control its fruitfulness, than one that emphasizes the interdependence of all beings….

 

*To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

**The photo is of a Mother Goddess figure, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

What We Once Had, We Might Not Have Ever Again: Speaking for the Majesty of an Eagle Taking Flight

Listen. It’s raining. Luckily, it’s not yet snow. For the last four or five years, we have become more aware of how extreme and precious the rain can be, switching between either drought or flood. It comes like a storm, harsh, or like a shadow, then it’s gone.

 

But not today. The rain is steady, and the sound is beautiful. Like the sound of crickets and cicadas, the wind, and the waves of the sea, it’s absorbing and surprisingly comforting. For the moment, it even washes away any anxiety over the election.

 

Even the muted light is soothing today.

 

I notice the fallen leaves, yellow, burnt orange, a bit of startling red. The leaves almost cover the deep green grass, which is eagerly drinking in the rain. The earth is thirsty.

 

I close my eyes and just listen. The sound gets more distinct. There are currents in the rain. The pace of falling water speeds up, creating a wind of rainwater pushing against my body even though I am in the house. Then it softens to barely a whisper. What before seemed steady and continuous is now revealed as something else, something unique in its pace. When I simply listen, there is more to hear.

 

Two days ago, my wife and I drove into town. From the opposite side of the road, just before the farm stand where we buy corn in season, an eagle rose out of the tall grass. Majestically and ever so slowly, it took flight right in front of a dark van. Its wingspan was wider than the van, yet somehow the eagle wasn’t hit. It flew off in front of my car window, unhurt. But the driver of the van barely maintained control of his vehicle and then pulled off the road and stopped.

 

We can easily assume so much. That one moment will be like the previous one. We walk out of the memory of yesterday’s door and drive on our memory of yesterday’s road.

 

We might assume that because we can (hopefully) vote, now, or because we have (hopefully) protections on the job now, or can get Social Security, or healthcare, we will have it tomorrow. We might tell ourselves or others we will have it no matter who wins the election on Tuesday, November 8. But as the GOP have said, all this can and will end if they win control, just as they work to take away a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her own health and when or if to have a family.

 

We need reassurance that our world won’t totally flip over on us. But to get that, we must pay enough attention, and be ready to act, so we’re not shocked when today almost slams into the windshield of our car….

 

 

*This is an update of a blog from October, 2020.

 

**Please go to The Good Men Project to read the whole article.

The Bear, the Raccoon, and the Hawk

It’s been eight to ten days of “firsts.” Last week, we woke up to find a hawk, with a bleeding chipmunk in its claws, sitting on a branch of the old apple tree outside the front door. That was a first.

 

A few days later, after midnight, a raccoon came in the second-floor cat window to the bedroom. We only knew it was there because one of our cats stood up on the bed and loudly hissed, waking us up. My wife and I got up and yelled at the coon. It climbed back out the window and we ran out the front door pursuing it, trying to frighten it enough so it wouldn’t return

 

The most dramatic and surprising visitor was the bear. Black bears are not unknown to the area. We had bird-feeders destroyed by bears in the past but only saw the mangled feeders left behind. But at 8:15 am this morning, with the sun shining behind it, we saw a bear cuddling a bird-feeder in the yard of our house.

 

Years ago, I had had nightmares about bears breaking into the house. And here one was, walking toward the apple tree where the hawk had rested just a few days earlier, and where the bird feeder had once rested. No nightmare, just fascination. All I thought about was preserving the moment, finding the camera, and taking pictures. I went from window to window looking for good angles for photos.

 

The bear seemed so soft when I studied it, so— not human, yet not that different. A cousin in the animal world and a fellow mammal. It had an inquisitive face and wasn’t afraid to look up at the window where I stood with the camera. It was driven more by thirst for food, for seeds dropped by birds from the feeder, then by watching us.

 

But when it walked right up to the front door, stood up on its hind legs, and reached out as if to knock on the door or knock out the window⎼ everything changed. My wife started shouting at it and banged her fists against the wall. I ran out the side door with 2 metal bars and started hitting them together making a wonderful clanging sound. The bear disappeared so fast we didn’t perceive where it went. It was like it was never here⎼ except for the photos, memories, and mangled bird-feeder. Too bad we didn’t take a picture of it at the door.

 

What should we make of this event? Clearly, the human and non-human are meeting more often than expected, not that the human world was ever separate from the rest of nature. But we humans are spreading everywhere. The realms where non-humans could live without our interference are getting smaller and rarer.

 

Many primatologists, zoologists and others have speculated that wild creatures like bears live immersed in the world of trees, bees, rivers, fish, rain, as well as other bears, just like we are immersed in sunshine, buildings, cars, technology, religions, politics, history, and other humans. Their world is one of more direct sensation. Ours, more abstracted, languaged, filled with our human imagination and thus with time, plans, and worries.

 

So, what happens when a bear lives so close to humans? Does it develop worries? Does it suddenly want to wear a watch and listen to the weather report? …

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.