One time in Alaska young woman asked me, “If we have made such good use of animals, eating them, singing about them, drawing them, riding them, and dreaming about them, what do they get back from us?“ An excellent question, directly on the point of etiquette and propriety and from the animal side. I told her “The anai say that the deer, salmon, and bear like our music and our fascinated by our languages. So we sing to the fish or the game, speaks words to them, say grace. We do ceremonies and rituals. Performance is currency in the deep worlds gift economy.“ I went on to say that I felt that non-human nature is basically well inclined toward humanity and only wishes modern people were more reciprocal, not so bloody. The animals are drawn to us, they see us as good musicians, and they think we have cute ears.
Gary Snyder, Back on the Fire
This morning while I did qi gong a chipmunk came, sat, and looked at me for the longest time. I assumed they were watching me: “That is peculiar behavior for human,“ in chipmunk thought. It reminded me of the time I did tai chi at my in-laws farm. When I started the cows were scattered all over the field and at the end they were all standing nearby looking at me – – almost all of them. My family commented on it at the time.
This reminded me of the Gary Snyder statement above about how animals appreciate our music and our dances. We don’t often think about what wild animals are thinking about us. I think that is part of human solipsism – – our self-centered approach to the wild. That same attitude of separating our human identity from the natural also plays itself out in the way we deny or suppress our animal and biological nature in favor of the human identity, and more so, our thinking self, the ego. One of the things that body therapy tries to do is to remedy that split, so we are one human being, body, mind and soul. And as we heal the split between our civilized and wild side, we also heal the split between us and the world.
Of course, there have been other responses to me doing tai ji. One time, I was doing tai ji during my lunch break while working at Mercy Hospital, a neighbor called the police and reported someone was in distress. Of course, maybe that was what the chipmunk thought.