Seeking That Animal Purity
I remember this rare occurrence in an otherwise rather placid childhood: I was feeling dejected and misunderstood, brooding in my room who knows about what (which indicates the transcendence of the matter), when the cat walked in to check on me. As adults, we risk doubting that an animal could be wise or aware enough to perceive a change of mood. As children, we are less polluted, and I was positive the cat knew something wasn’t right. I recall the immense comfort the feline brought me. With a sudden sense of purpose, I picked up a bunch of crayons and drew big letters on a blank piece of paper, stating something along the lines of, ‘Some things, only animals understand’. The wisdom of the message was certainly at odds with the age-appropriate pettiness of my sulking.
Now, almost thirty years later, I watch Gerald Durrell express a similar concept in the more eloquent terms of an adult who had devoted his life to understanding beasts: unlike humans, animals take us as we are, indifferent to manners or other social constructs, agendas or machinations. It also feels magical that the famous naturalist must have uttered those words around the same time I was sulking in my room. Synchronicity is mesmerising.
Indeed, when I consider my relationship with my pets, I realise how simple and pure it is, comparable only to my best human connections, the kind we can count with half the fingers of one hand — if we are lucky. I treat my cats kindly, and they respond with equal kindness. Sometimes, I am perplexed by how they won’t even attempt to move when I could accidentally step on them. In their minds, I have never posed a threat, not even an involuntary one, so how could harm ever come from me? In contrast, the subtlest movement behind a wall will urge them into action, adopting a defensive posture or rushing into hiding in a split second. Not the dangerous staggering of their clumsy human, though!
While comprehending social etiquette and mastering acceptable behaviours are critical for any individual to live in a community, I wonder if we should invest more time observing and learning from animals. There is a purity in their relationships that is worth being familiar with, a purity reserved for our closest relations, perhaps, without which they could never be as close as we would like.
Written while listening to ‘Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett’ by Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison & John Also Bennett.
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