What a Pig! What a Swine! What a Rat! And there’s more!

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals 

In the previous ‘What a Pig!’ post I highlighted the fact that the language we use betrays our cultural perspective on other animals as being inferior to the human animal, who is almost universally reckoned to be at the top of the tree. And that nearly all animal comparisons we use are negative. I argued for a paradigm shift in that mindset.

This is summed up beautifully in this passage, if in slightly archaic prose:

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves.   And therein do we err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.

from ‘The Outermost House’

Henry Beston (1888-1868), the writer of the quote at the head of this post, is not such a familiar name. So it may come as a surprise to you as it did to me, that he is the man credited by many including Rachel Carson as being the father of the modern environmental movement. Beston had been traumatised by his experiences in WW1 and after the war spent a year living on the beach at Cape Cod in search of peace and solitude.  ‘The Outermost House’ was the fruit of that year of reflection.

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