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Loving Animal Nature: Saving the World Means Loving All of It

Loving Animal Nature

We can't save the world unless we love every part of it.

Unitarian Universalists have a First Principle, which states, "the inherent worth and dignity of all people." Some change the ending to "all beings" or all "persons," so as to include nonhuman species as well. Either way, I often hear how the First Principle is a slam dunk, that of course we see the worth and dignity of other individuals! I think that perhaps we do so cognitively, but behavior is an embodied, effectual, and largely subconscious affair. This means that our actions, words, and thoughts often do not match our cognitive or conscious affirmation, especially if we are under stress or our needs are not getting met. Furthermore we all have been acculturated since an early age to fit into a society that "hierarchalizes" the “other” into subhuman or less worthy categories so that certain groups can exert power, domination, and control over economic resources. In other words, we have much work to do to actually treat all as if they had inherent worth and dignity.

This idea includes ourselves. How often do you find yourself thinking or behaving towards yourself less charitably than the remarkable beautiful being you are deserves? It is possible to love yourself, but that means loving all of your animality, and the animality of others. By animality I mean the perfection of who we are that responds to the world as a sensing body and not as a machine guided only by human cultural constraints. By love I mean being open to the needs and feelings of others without judgment. This is empathy. Krishnamurti writes, "observing without judging is the highest form of human intelligence." Such empathy connects us deeply to life and nourishes us, others, and our relationships and goals.

All of us can grow in intelligence, which comprises emotional, social, and multispecies intelligence. These intelligences ask us to consider how we, other humans, and other species are feeling and what we are needing. We can train ourselves to be more impartial, scientific observers by quieting our narrow loops of judgment, and instead translate everything into feelings and needs. The world needs us to do this inner work that includes accepting all of who we are as great apes who live and die imperfectly, so we can then do the outer work to preserve and cherish life and well being. If we marginalize anything within ourselves as “wrong” or “not part of the whole” we will do this to others, either individually, or subconsciously by accepting a society that exploits beings and extracts health from the environment so that that fewer can have greater privilege than the many.

We evolved to have a loving animal nature, to be attuned intimately to and in relationship to life around us without judgment. Loving animal nature means that as we open ever more greatly to the biology, needs, feelings, and subjective experience of all we move towards co-liberation. Undoing the enculturation that traps us, frees us as well as all beings.

This requires of us the work of learning to live without fear and to die courageously. The rewards can be great, for if we can embrace the reality of our shared and interdependent animal nature with all life, removing hierarchal evaluation of others, we will be embraced in return by nature. We will know that we belong, and in our actions can welcome the many to a flourishing life.

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