Humans are a strange species. We are, to my knowledge, the only species that attempts to live in insolation from other species. We may collect in human groups – and we may have a few select “pets” – but by and large we don’t consider ourselves part of the ecosystem, and certainly not kin to other living beings. After all, we are human, and therefore we transcend animal instincts.
Well, maybe not so much. Or, maybe the traits that we think define us as human aren’t limited to our species. Isn’t it rather anthropocentric to believe that we’re the only beings that think, consider the future, reflect on the past, and have feelings? What if these are traits of consciousness, of any living being, and not exclusively human? What if our experience is universal between us and animals, and maybe even other forms of life, only we experience ours through particular filters of human language, perceptions, and behavior?
A Dutch primatologist, Frans de Waal, might concur with some of those questions. He recently published a book, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? that is intriguing. He shows evidence that animals do indeed exhibit many of the behaviors and emotions that we thought distinguished humans from other species.
It touches on what I have known in my inner self for a long time –we are not truly separate from the rest of our world. We actually share the same kinds of emotions and have similar longings – for connection, touch, happiness – as all life does. All life longs to feel a sense of Oneness and harmony.
Many spiritual teachings affirm that we are not limited to our individual selves, let alone to just the human species. The truth is that everything is interconnected, and there is no definitive dividing line between you and the rest of the world. You are not limited to you. There’s actually no limit to what you are.
I know it sounds like a stretch to leap from animals being like us to universal Oneness. But it’s actually an important intermediary point, to acknowledge that there is more to the rest of the world that we have been willing to perceive. We forget that we are seeing everything through a defined filter of “humanness”, and defining everything around us based on our human perspective. But that doesn’t allow us to see what a bee sees, or feel what a cat feels, or think what an octopus thinks. And because of that, we aren’t really seeing the whole of creation.
Through the willingness to step out of our human-centric mode of perception, we begin to consider new ways of understanding life. We begin to sense connectedness, rather than separation. And the more we open to sensing that inter-connectedness, the more we realize there is no end to it. We can infinitely see more and more interconnection, more and more interrelationships, more and more interdependence. Until we are lead to the same conclusions the great seers of the ages have: there is only Oneness, expressing in myriad forms.
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