I Am an Animal

Anesthetized by homogenized urbanity and an uppity sense of being separate from everything else, most modern people forget we humans are animals.

I’ve had my own royal battle acknowledging that truth.

As a young one in the mid 1940’s, rolling around on the recently mowed suburban backyard grass, I felt at home in this green bladed tickly stuff, the cut emerald perfume inhaling me deeply. Flitting quickly, honey bees buzzed among the few remaining upright clover stalks, and I rolled carefully onto my back not wanting to smash a bee nor get stung. I faced the startling blue of sky, not yet dulled by pollution, a word not known to me then. Cupping my hands to screen out everything but sky, I plunged into the blue at the same time my shoulder blades dove out the other side of earth arriving in the country of China that I’d been told lay opposite me.

I lay there wondering at it all, wondering about property lines and my backyard. Where did our property end? Did it go six inches down, six feet up? Where did I really belong? What could I call mine? Why was there a fence keeping me out of my beloved woodland? I felt at home there where mystery and discovery flourished. But I knew the wood belonged to someone else.

My mother’s voice ripped me from my musing: “Deb, stop rolling around like an animal.”

“I’m NOT rolling around like an animal.”

“Oh yes, you are! You really are.”

“But, Mom, I’m not an animal. I’m me.”

“I know, Deb, but actually, humans are animals.”

“We are NOT,” I shout in horror.

“But we are. We’re animals, really.”

“We are not,” Doubt makes me cling stubbornly to my belief, “I’m not an animal. I can’t be. I talk. Dogs don’t talk. They’re animals.”

“But, honey,” she softens a little now, getting into her teacherly mode, “The scientists have figured it out. Biologists know. There are all kinds of animals…birds, reptiles, fish, spiders, bees, horses, elephants, all kinds… The humans are the kind called mammals.”

“But I can’t be an animal,” I remember my panic rising again. “I can’t be. I walk on two legs.”

“So do birds,” she says.

*****

That memory rivets me.

My family values, my era, my community taught me to deny my animal nature, and yet, I knew deeply that I was most at home with dirt, sky, wood, creek.

scan0005

I faced a huge crack in my world, a Catch-22 for my soul.

Childhood dependency exacerbated the issue. In my family, cleanliness was literally more important than godliness. Self-control, erudition, speaking perfect grammar with perfect pronunciation, those qualities ruled my days…starched and ironed dresses, white socks, combed hair, white gloves and purses on certain occasions – even at the age of 3.

proper deb

 

My era compounded the issue. The phrase “women’s lib” hadn’t yet been coined in the 1940’s and 50’s. Girls in school had only recently been given permission to play sports and we did it with gusto. Half court basketball was better than no basketball. BUT I ran, dribbled twice and threw the ball scared to death the whole time. My one-piece, buttoned to the neck, cinched waist with elastic holding the fabric tight at the thigh, royal blue “romper,” the standard physical education class uniform, had elbow length sleeves. Sweating armpits turned royal blue cloth to black and life as I knew it would end if anyone saw those tell tale signs. . . Girdled and stockinged, brassiered and high heeled, bleached highlights and bobby pins to tame my hair, nose matted with powder, cheeks blushed with rouge, I lost the home of my body – a dis-ease wildly prevalent today in different ways with different symptoms but still a viral phenomenon in youth and beauty oriented cultures.

not jst lady

Growing up in Pennsylvania didn’t help either. Propriety ruled. I got a hint of what I was missing when an Australian artist woman moved into our suburban neighborhood with her German physics professor husband. One day I took them to the public pool and she expressed her surprise that kids had to wear bathing suits in America. She told me that in both Europe and Australia, kids under the age of six swam nude. Her whole family routinely went skinny dipping in German hot springs.

Those differences in lifestyles and cultural values unhinged the doors caging my psyche.

At this time on our planet, we humans need to claim proudly our identity as mammals dependent on nature’s largesse. Whether urban born or not, we are indigenous by being born HERE, all of us everywhere. We are one of the animals forming the skin over the bones of our planet.

But we are unique in the animal kingdom: we kill and manipulate all the others, including members of our own species. For life’s sake, we need to change that behavior. We are technologically capable and scientifically adept humans who are also indigenous, wild two-legged animals. Recognizing that evolution has brought us to an era of wholebrained and mindbody wisdom offers the potential for moving beyond chaos, conflict and crisis to full compassionate participation in nourishing the web of life.

That notion elicits an audible WOW from my soul.

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About Deborah

Deborah Jane Milton, Ph.D. is an artist, mentor, and eco-psychologist, mother of four and grandmother of eight.
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3 Responses to I Am an Animal

  1. Jean says:

    love your writing, so wonderfully expressing what you feel. Keep it coming wild one!

    Like

  2. Ian Brooks says:

    Great post! I love the acknowledgement of the need to recognize and integrate our animal and “technological” natures!
    – I was very inspired, but be warned, this post got a little long, and I wrote it on my phone and don’t know how to save it, so I just posted it here. I will repost on the fb group later tonight. –
    However, I do not think we have achieved this mindbody consciousness, though we now have the technology. The homo sapien on planet earth still has not begun the empirical process if integrating the mind and body. Denial and/or demonization of the animal nature is still the rule of thumb.
    Look at our educational system. Nearly all tests used to determine the student’s grasp of material are written, left brain oriented, symbol driven, and theoretical. What is happening to music and physical education departments? Lack of funding. Going through the motions. They are pathetic in compared to the depth of knowledge of academic subjects (which I do love).
    Think about the ADHD craze. Then remember the craziness you experienced during the endocrinological (real word?) transformations; body, and brain changes occurring throughout the first 20 years of a human life. To whom does it seem a good idea to coup up these new souls, hungry for experience, in prison like institutions of “learning”?
    Now let us dig deeper and bring our awareness to an important and touchy issue. Think about the sexual energy coursing through every teenager during those potent hormonal changes each one of us has undergone. A good argument could be made for an accusation of child abuse towards any parent, group, or organization which teaches a demonization and/or repression of the natural, biological programmed-in sexual needs. ESPECIALLY when the brain is wiring it’s general outlook on and behaviors in sexual functioning. The importance of having a healthy view of and relationship towards sexual functioning has been well documented in the psychoanalytic community. ADDITIONALLY consider the fact of global overpopulation with the fact that some children are still being taught that sex is for procreation, and procreation only. Now juxtapose all this to the fact that humans and dolphins are the only two species known to have open sexuality. That is, they do not have an annual cycle of a limited season of heat. Also note both of these animals have a high intelligence and large brains. There goes the term “animal passions”.
    Lastly, think about the popularity of discussing the “mind-body problem” in academic philosophy.
    In summary, and to take a step back, wouldn’t the implementation of these mindbody integration technologies be the “solution” to this “problem”? Might the implementation of such technologies create a new style of functioning in the homo sapiens who underwent such a learning, possibly resulting in a more robust physicality, mental capacity, and resultant culture? Might the implementation of such techologies also be taking a practical step towards the manifestation of something akin to the nietzschean ideal “superman”? All of the above?
    You tell me.

    Like

    • Deborah says:

      Thank you so much Ian for taking time to write this thoughtful post. I share similar perspectives but given my long lifetime I experience a great deal of human transformation, a growing openness toward the idea that we humans are more than talking heads. Just witnessing the growth of Yoga in the last thirty years blows me open with possibilities. Yoga now commonly spoken of even in corporate settings. That’s huge. I am currently rereading an old book by Brian Swimme, mathematical cosmologist you may have heard of. One of his earliest books published in 1985. I read it then, but it kind of flowed into everything else I was thinking/doing/being/transforming at the time. Now, its wisdom is blowing me away. So many years ago and his perspectives are just now beginning to be heard by more people, partly because science – in particular quantum physics – has had more time to make discoveries that affirm his metaphysical statements. Called The Universe is a Green Dragon. So given the rapid rate of change now, the exponential rise of the World Wide Web and its influence, the growing recognition that we live on a finite planet, all that gives me faith that our species is indeed rising to the evolutionary demand to mature! And you are part of that growing potential for wisdom. I look forward to talking more about this and wonder if you’d have an interest in exploring the DVD series called the Ten Powers of the Universe that also course through us humans. Thank you again!

      Like

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