I think I’m an animist. I certainly think it can’t hurt to be appreciative and thankful to the many objects — living and otherwise — which help me along through the day. But, to get back to the question that made me start thinking about this, what does that mean?
Animals, it seems clear to me, have a spirit. And looking at them and I ask myself what experiences we have in common. (Using Tarot to try and communicate with Hofgaard taught me that our experiences are more bio-chemical than we know, and we — people who can barely put ourselves in the heads of other humans — can’t appreciate the bio-chemistry of other species.) So, what do we have in common?
Between humans and animals, fear seems pretty common, right? And, to experience fear, I think you have to be fearful for something. In the same way that I can be fearful for my kids, I think that most fear is for myself. To have fear, then, is to have a sense of self.
And that, I think, is what it means to have a spirit. I think it means animals — human and otherwise — have a sense of self.
I have no way of knowing whether there is a fish who thinks of himself as the funny one, (a codmedian) or a deer who thinks he’s financially savvy (‘the buck stops here’) because these animals don’t even try to communicate with me. So, I’m not saying that we appreciate our self-ness the same way, but we share it.
Do trees have this? I think so. I say it’s better to err on the side of caution. What about dandilions? Why not.
Rocks, streams, oceans? Here, I don’t know. I mean, obviously, whatever chemistry is going on there is so far from what is going on inside my head that I can’t appreciate what that would be like. So, who’s to say?
This line of thinking goes in the other direction as well: Does the Earth have a sense of self (perhaps as Earth Mother)? I don’t know. I ask myself often whether I exist parallel to the Earth Mother, or as a part of her. I do believe that she has some sense of who she is, but not that she concerns herself with me any more than I do with my gut bacteria.
All of this brings us to the topic of my next post: why does this matter? Who cares? And, I think, there are ethical implications to all of this. And, soon, I’d like to sit down and use words to digest the ideas.