Tethered to my neck by a leather strap, the binoculars bang against my chest…
A hot potato, I want to fling the binocs into the forest. Instead, I push them into the bowels of my daypack.
How did I learn to be so thoughtless? I wouldn’t stare at my neighbor’s family this way. Peeping-toms are arrested, aren’t they?
Soothed a bit by the continued, rhythmic munching, I soften my gaze on the pond. The beaver, who has shaken my notions of who I am as a “good” human, has disappeared, but two smalls and one middling are still paddling back and forth around the base of the lodge facing me. I know it’s probably past time for me to leave, but the munching sounds pull my gaze out to the far log once more.
Only one beaver munches at the dinner log. Where is the other?
Swimming toward me. Maybe it’s headed to the lodge, but no, s/he swims right by it. Keeps swimming in a straight line, a very straight line, toward me. Forty feet away now. Then maybe thirty. I pose a silent question to the intelligence around me:
Do beavers attack humans?
I stand up. Twenty-five feet away now and still swimming. Twenty! I want to flee but I am frozen in place. Fifteen feet away s/he slows, stops, unflinchingly glares at me. Then s/he whacks her tail hard, then whacks it again with another ear-splitting crack. Then, s/he turns aside and heads toward the bank to their left, which s/he now scrambles up and finds something to chew. The dinner-log beaver still munches away. Though the constant rhythm of eating reassures me and makes me want to linger, I know it’s time to go. As I turn to thread my way back through the sapling forest, I cast one last look over my shoulder and gasp at the beauty of the world I’m leaving. The beaver on the bank to my right, anger forgotten, has been joined by a placidly chewing twin – body silhouetted by the soft pastels of twilight framed by leafy greens in a mirror of calm water.
As I walk back to town, I am stunned by my insensitivity, shocked by my unthinking disrespect. The popular story of human superiority destroys my morals. That story’s accompanying assumptions: separation from the living body, planet as resource, universe as dead, life as machine, controlling behavior and power-over thinking as the only sources of security – all these assumptions defy living, loving, celebrating, and mutual flourishing.
We humans have become rapacious consumers, cancers gobbling up the body we depend on… We spend millions every year on the war against cancer, not yet realizing we ARE the cancer. I don’t want to be a cancer destroying my life’s body. Do you? Of course, you don’t.
Luckily the human story of separation and superiority is brand new in terms of evolutionary time frames. But at every level possible in our thinking, we act as if this new story is the only one we’ve ever lived. We act as if the current story is the FINAL story, the culmination of our human destiny, as we frantically deny our continued evolving potential. Let’s join together and start living into a new story of humans contributing to the flourishing of life. What an exhilarating time to be alive! We can contribute to the future flourishing of life on Earth!!! When our cultural story changes, then the paradigms guiding our behaviors change, and so will everything else. Who will we become? I hope we have enough time to find out.