When I taught a college Psychology course, I used an exercise that started with me whispering something in one student's ear, that student would whisper to the next one and so on until the last student. I'd ask that last student to repeat out loud what was whispered to him/her and look at student #1's face to witness the incredulity. It was always worth a good laugh because what came out the end was nowhere near the way it started. This goes along with the proven fact that two people standing next to each other witnessing the same event will report two very different things.
I suppose I just supplied a logical excuse for the media's slant on today's current events, the Iraq war in particular. The 'news' I get is filtered through many lenses.
I currently work to support families of deployed soldiers. Talking with wives and mothers and fathers of soldiers in Iraq, I hear what their soldiers tell them about what is going on in Iraq. One mother tells me that her son said that the Iraqi people are very kind, giving, welcoming, trustworthy people, and if we weren't over there fighting the insurgents creating hell there, the fight would come to US soil. More than a few family members have told me just about the same.
My point is that what I see on TV news, no matter what news channel, doesn't come close to what soldiers tell their families, who then tell me, is going on. What is on TV does not tell me what soldiers experience daily, or what life is like for the people who call Iraq home. Why not? I plead with the soldiers' families I talk with to stay away from watching the news. Listen to your soldier who is telling you that what is on the news is nothing like what is happening in Iraq.
What irks me the most about this whole thing is the media's obsession with the political discourse about the war in Iraq, which is even farther from what soldiers say is reality. Hence, I call them billybumblers - both the politicians and the media. I don't know if there is such a thing as a billybumbler or if it's just Stephen King's imagined creature in his Dark Tower series, but hey, the shoe fits. What? Do the politicians get their 'facts' from the media? Look at how many lives their decisions are impacting!
Repeat after me: What is on the news is nothing like what is really happening.
If you look at it in terms of instincts being unconscious and the consciousness providing the will to control or overcome the inborn instincts, then it's logical to say that animals have moments of consciousness. In terms of psychological development, I guess that's as good as any 'line' to define the differences - whether something is able to overcome instinctual tendencies. Jung says that instincts need to have all things just right in order for the instinct to function, like how it is impossible for some animals to breed in captivity - the natural environment is gone, so the instinct to reproduce is squashed, it doesn't work. We tap in to our unconscious where those instincts are by dreaming and daydreaming and through fantasy. What happens in our conscious he calls 'directed thinking' (the more developed thinking is, the less there is the ability to tap into the unconscious contents), but we came on that slowly, and he uses mythology as proof of that. As a species, we are different in our instictual purpose from animals, but some animals are not that far developmentally from us. The training we do with horses (or any other animal) itself is enough to develop 'thinking' since what we are training them to do is go against their instincts.
Survival is an instinct and probably in every living thing. That instinct alone would be enough to say that all animals sense their pending death. I'd even go so far to say that humans are the best at ignoring or denying their death, which may also be a way that instinct to survive pushes them through a dangerous situation. Look at the Holocaust. Most of the world denied that Hitler was killing millions in gas chambers because it was such a horrendous thought, and that denial let him free to do his killing for a few years. I've read several books on it by survivors, and one thing they all do is deny that they would have to walk into one of those chambers. Those that survived did so because they believed that unbelievable situation would end. They held onto this hope even though every day they saw thousands walk into those doors and never come back out again. Is it really just thinking that happens, or can animals somehow know that their mates are gone for good? If animals penned outside a slaughter house hear the screams and smell the blood, can they deny what is going on in there? Animals don't have the ability to think of ways to make themselves valuable to their captors enough to keep them out of that slaughter house as some of the Jews did, nor do they have the ability to deny that impending death. I would have to say the existence of the instinct to survive is solid proof of awareness of pending death.
The differentiation between human and animals is not the human characteristics given to animals that causes slaughter to be an issue. What is inherent in every living thing is the instinct to survive. Jung believed in the "collective unconscious" that every living thing shares, and what "directed thinking" has taken us farther and farther away from. We, as humans, as people, have developed to the point where we have become much less since we are unable to tap into a great part of what we are. It is at the root of why humanity has become more and more inhumane.
It is not the giving of human qualities to animals or the emotional attachment to our pets or even our wish to use the horse as a symbol of our American history that is at issue here. It is more the overpopulation of the planet, the waste of the natural resources that is at the heart of even considering another food source to feed the Earth's hungry people. Perhaps it is a turning point for mankind. Perhaps this issue of horse slaughter is just another reason to examine our "directed thinking" and take seriously the responsibility it implies. WE have changed the environment, so WE have to devise ways that allow natural, instinctual tendencies to function. If we do not, the end result will be extinction for all we call life.
Today's headlines: "Shaken Sadam is sentenced to hang", "California schools to fingerprint students", "Top court to hear major abortion test cases", "Marine species collapse by 2048". Yesterday, I read one article that said that our current population growth rate would need a whole other planet to sustain it by 2050. Hence, my title for today's blog. It's a 'call to action' plea to you, to everyone, to stop and take a look at what is going on right now in Our World.
I don't care about the color of your skin, where you were born on this Earth, or what religion or political party you ascribe to. We are all one: We all have red blood, eat, drink, sleep, reproduce, eliminate waste and breathe oxygen. At the most basic level, we all need food, shelter and clothing to survive and a majority of us spend the majority of our time and energy filling these basic needs.
Stay in the drill down mode with me here, and look at what is going on. Let's keep at this until we reach the fundamentals of our reality. I'm going to throw out a few thoughts and hope it inspires you to consider how you think and feel about it all.
First, examine the concept of the sanctity of life. We are at war, presumably to protect the right to life and the right to choose, right? Sadam is sentenced to death for killing. Abortion is again in the headlines mired in the right to life vs the right to choose issues. The surface of the planet is mostly water and we are now looking at killing everything that lives in water in another 45 years. And yet another freedom is whittled away by fingerprinting children, moving right along with current plans of the government to ID and track every single animal raised for food production.
I'm going to state this bluntly: One of the primary things that seperate humans from the rest of the life on this planet is the fundamental right to CHOOSE. Freedom of choice is a fundamental right that forces responsibility. As a human being, you must take responsibilty for your life - every action, every thought, every feeling. Yes, it is a fundamental right to LIVE, as it is for the birds, bees, blades of grass, trees, fish....., but each person is reponsible for deciding, for choosing, to respect the fundamental right of everyone and everything to live. YOU must choose to define what freedom/choice is and then live, think and feel accordingly. You see, you cannot have freedom without choice - they are one and the same, black/white, yin/yang, etc; one can't exist without the other.
Sadam chose to commit heinous crimes. But, does taking away his right to live reverse those crimes or even come close to paying for them? Two wrongs make a right? Is it ever right for one person to choose for another as in the case of abortion? Again, two wrongs make a right? Take over from here and apply this to our other freedoms as in the case of fingerprinting and depleting the Earth's resouces to extinction. You are responsible for that.
YOU are RESPONSIBLE.
Feeling For Horses
Thanks to the Internet, there is an extreme amount of information available to research on how to care for and train horses. There is so much information that it takes just as much of a talent to discriminate between valid and invalid as it does to actually ride a horse. (Some will say it is impossible to learn from reading the things that are important to safely handling a horse. Well, if that were true, why is so much written about it?) The current trend is "Natural Horsemanship" with many variations on the same theme of a more humane and friendly approach to establishing a communication between two very different species of animal, horse and human. It is not "new" in the sense that Natural Horsemanship has always existed as long as humans have interacted with the horse. It is only "new" to those who have never viewed their interactions with a horse as anything more than a object/manipulator relationship. Perhaps that superficial, shallow approach to horses is a symptom of a stagnant growth and evolution of the personality, and since the horse/human relationship is no longer driven by need, it is much more apparent in this "new" era of horsemanship.
There is more information available about people than there is about horses. The upside to this statement-of-the-obvious is that if you are reading this, you have direct experience with being a person! That direct experience tells you immediately that everyone is an individual with a different set of experiences and therefore a different interpretation of those experiences than anyone that might have shared those experiences with you. A 'soft' science, there are libraries filled with an infinite number of Psych theories to explain those different interpretations of experiences. The only way to survive the glut of information is to sift through whatever you can get your hands on and relate. In other words, if it rings true to you, then it is true. Through understanding ourselves as people, Psychology can shine a light on why some people insist that a horse is an inanimate object to be taken off the shelf and used without any more thought than if a horse were, say, a radio.
As an extreme example, Psychology has given us the profile of a psychopathic personality. The first clue to this type of personality disorder is a cruelty to animals in childhood. Often, this person is very intelligent and capable of fully functioning in day to day life. Signs of objectivism do not become apparent until interpersonal relationships are attempted. Described as a lack of conscience, everything within this person's life is nothing more than an object to be manipulated in order to satisfy selfish needs. To muddy the picture, most psychopaths go through life unnoticed. It is a matter of degree, and none will go to a therapist with complaints of unsatisfied needs. Most will decide it is not in their best interest to do anything that would threaten their ability to satisfy needs, so they do not commit acts that lead to arrest and incarceration. Some theorize that psychopathic tendencies are due to a perceived childhood trauma that diverts energy into sustaining a false reality instead of true growth of the personality while others theorize there is some sort of short in the brain. Either way, this personality disorder does not respond to treatment of any sort. The horse, just as another human being, is just a means to an end to the psychopathic personality.
Psychology also gives us developmental theories that describe 'normal' development of the personality. One theory is "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs", the full theory can be found at the link above. Visualize a pyramid, wide at the bottom, cut into 5 levels, signifying the amount of energy needed to satisfy needs on each level and only able to adress the needs on the next higher level after the needs have been met. On the first level is Physiological Needs such as food, clothing and water. The next level is Safety and Security, which deals more with fears and anxieties. Next is Love and Belonging followed by the Esteem level. The highest, smallest part of the pyramid is Self-Actualization. The majority of needs at each level must be met in order to expend energy on higher level needs, though this is not absolute.
Self-Actualization may be the key to understanding the attraction to horses, especially since there is no longer the need to use horses for transportation and plowing fields. The needs of a person expending energy on this level seem to more clearly lend itself to this theory. A person expending energy on Self-Actualization seeks:
Truth, rather than dishonesty.
Goodness, rather than evil.
Beauty, not ugliness or vulgarity.
Unity, wholeness, and transcendence of opposites, not arbitrariness or forced choices.
Aliveness, not deadness or the mechanization of life.
Uniqueness, not bland uniformity.
Perfection and necessity, not sloppiness, inconsistency, or accident.
Completion, rather than incompleteness.
Justice and order, not injustice and lawlessness.
Simplicity, not unnecessary complexity.
Richness, not environmental impoverishment.
Effortlessness, not strain.
Playfulness, not grim, humorless, drudgery.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency.
Meaningfulness, rather than senselessness.
Within our relationship with our horses, these are a reality - for those of us who strive for a relationship with our horse. A life with horses gives us actualization!
Obviously, this is not a full exploration of the differences between those who seek a partnership with their horse vs those who approach their horse as an object. Think about it for awhile and see what parts of it ring true for you.
In one ear and out the other.
With about fifty years under my belt, that's about the way it seems. Someone once told me that I've forgotten more than most people know. Actually, it was that I've forgotten more songs than most people know. Either way, the shoe fits. I've forgotten a lot. It's sort of frightening to read something I wrote, find it impressive, yet not have half a memory of having wrote it. Maybe the knowledge is only 'in there' until I write it, and then it's gone.
My life is far from typical. It's also not interesting enough to write about. My brain tends to go, go, go and go some more, so that might prove to be a little more interesting. I share my thoughts with the grand idea that you might find it worth the time to share yours. Is it "knowledge"? Maybe yes, maybe no. Is it worth sharing? Yes, by all means.
What I'll start with are a few essays I wrote awhile ago. We'll go from there...