Just Another Animal? Moi!?!?

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 “You know, Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.” – Lt. Ripley, Aliens

When was the last time you saw, or heard about other animals inventing reasons to do away with, sometimes in the worst of ways, fellow members of their species? We don’t even have to go as far as the “Let me impregnate you with an alien being, freeze you and ship you home so I can make some money” scenario. Rape and infanticide (by most society’s standards two of the most despicable actions one can commit) are both very common occurrences in nature, amongst a variety of creatures. But even the most dastardly of deeds done in nature are done for survival purposes or base sexual pleasure.

Animals (that we know of) have yet to create reasons to destroy one another. The baser and fundamental reasons of survival and sexual gratification notwithstanding, the creation of religion and currency (arguably the two largest offenders) is what has set us apart from our ‘less civilized’ residents of Earth. God and Money, what better reasons to kill each other over.

It is amazing to me that quite a large percentage of people I meet and converse with do not consider humans part of the animal kingdom. Sure, they may pay lip-service to the fact that we are creatures of Earth, and that we are part of nature… but not that we are just another animal ourselves. And cutting out the free-thinking individuals and wacky kooks, we are left with two diametrically opposed but ultimately in agreement groups of people.

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The one, those who believe in a deity or God, also choose to believe that we are above the animal kingdom, beyond it and thus being so, special. They would have you think that humans are revered above all others, with things like intelligence, conscience thought, souls and other supposedly unique inventions of “divine” design. The Chapter of Genesis, verse 26 in the Kings James Version of the Christian Bible states; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Holier than thou much?

And the other, those who do not subscribe to divine creation or a theistic approach as an answer to life, purport that humans are more evolved, and that through their technological achievements we have progressed beyond the animalistic natures of our ancient forbears. With abstract reasoning and the ability for introspection we are obviously beyond the lesser creatures. Articles on LiveScience.com, forums on Quora.com and opinion pieces on ScientificAmerican.com from accredited scholars all laud how much smarter humans are than other animals. Citing use of distinctive languages, wide range environmental accomplishments and higher mathematics as proof. Evolving a bit pretentiously are we?

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“Man is just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all.” – Anton Szandor LaVey, Founder of The Church Of Satan

I think that those who choose to be educated, and honest in their findings must agree that humans have (despite of in fact being animals) indeed set themselves apart from the other animals of the earth, and in a vast majority of actions are far more reprehensible. Anton S. LaVey’s words were purposefully and carefully expressed, from the personal observances of one as worldy as he.

The blatant refusal from so many to accept a fundamentally observable and scientifically supported axiom that we are animals is an incredible stumbling block in personal development. Both from the perspective that we are divinely unique or that we are by evolution supremely special, these stultifying beliefs do more harm than good. Without the self-acceptance and self-awareness of the very real truths which the world around us presents for our consideration every day, we do not only ourselves, but those we cherish a grievous disservice.

To think that our accomplishments and advancements to date, both spiritual and technological in nature, set us apart from those creatures who do not have access to such resources is simply contentious ambiguity. We are much the same as our ‘less able’ animal cousins, we just have better tools. There are various examples of animals using ingenuity to achieve their goals; otters cracking oysters with rocks, bonobos acquiring nuts outside their cage with sticks, bears using rocks to exfoliate, the examples are widespread and varied. But to think that a tribe of baboons, given the idea of a God concept, would not use it to both strengthen their own community and forcefully coerce another is hubris. Or to hold that given an opportunity to treat her young with an antiviral, that a mother elephant would decline because that is something only a human would do, is the most absurd of fallacies. (Yes, those were actual statements given to me on the validity of humans being better than animals.)

But no matter what you believe or choose to hold as your current underlying acceptance, holding to the notion that we are better than other animals, despite all examples to contrary is counterproductive. For humanity to truly advance and progress beyond the delusions of magical grandeur which so many feel entitled to, we must respect the carnal within ourselves and with that acceptance move forward. It is common motto amongst psychologists and counselors that “Before you can truly love another, you must come to love yourself first.” Rotten parts and all. For if you simply choose to ignore those festering bits, you may shine from all that polishing done on the outside, but sooner or later the putrefaction from within will catch up to you.

Thich-Nhat-HanhI’d tell you to do more than accept your animal nature, and revel in those most personal of inner passions… but that’s a matter for another time.  I think for now, it is enough to ask that a little introspection and outside perspective be looked into. After all, if you never entertain the notion that you’re wrong, whats the value in being right?

From Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, “To be beautiful, means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You only need to accept yourself.”

 

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