God’s divine energy—what I consider to be the Holy Spirit—permeates all creation from the horned toad basking in the sun to the child swaying on a swing. Once I realized this, my view of others and how I valued God’s “lesser” critters changed. No matter how different each form of life is, the Great I Am’s divine spark links us to one another.
Namaste, a Hindu greeting, bears essentially the same meaning—that Divine energy connects us—and when we recognize this commonality, we can acknowledge our true unity.
Keeping this in mind, we can no longer ignore the pain of our distant brothers and sisters because they may seem so foreign to us. Through international travels, I’ve found that when meeting people of unfamiliar backgrounds, I’m struck more by our similarities than differences. Even when I spent a memorable afternoon with a Samburu warrior—one who lived in a mud hut, hiked everywhere and whose only technology was a wristwatch the camp made him wear—we laughed as we tried to communicate with each other through mime. Later, an interpreter (one of his fellow tribesmen) shared the importance of his family and how women and men court each other. We all seek love. We all want to protect our families. We all want to enjoy the days we have on Earth.
Just the same, we can’t disregard the animal kingdom; we need to respect its right to thrive. Jesus said that God cares for the sparrow. Matthew 6:26 (NIV) says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them.” The Most Divine pays attention to the needs of a common bird, which should compel us to do the same.
The more time I spend observing, the more similarities I see between wildlife and humans. Animals have relationships with each other and possess different personalities. I’ve seen a kestrel attack a starling and a covey of quail race to that poor bird’s aid. I’ve also witnessed the agony of a mother gazelle frantically pacing while watching her baby get eaten by a jackal. Her haunting wails remain with me.
Science is discovering that some wildlife possess a unique brand of intelligence and can even forge emotional relationships. A 2009 University of Colorado study detailed magpie funerals, where two of four birds that stood next to a dead magpie flew off and returned with blades of grass that they laid beside the corpse. The birds then stood vigil for a short period.
While animal intelligence differs dramatically from human intellect (and why wouldn’t it?), we can’t dismiss wildlife as beings that don’t suffer. I’d like to see us become more aware of the Earth’s creatures and to respect them and their ecosystems, to honor their connections to each other, to the earth, to the divine and to us.
Every being is worthy of God’s attention, so it’s important that we honor the Most Divine by respecting and appreciating all people as well as all creatures great and small.