Afterthoughts: Conversation with David Abram, Part Two: Lessons from Bees and Goats.

Photo art by Alexandra Parks-Perry
colored pencil over photograph

A second afterthought on the Conversation with David Abram (C. G. Jung Institute, see below): The importance of the lessons that we learn from animals about our place in the world.

That evening I told a story about walking with my herd of goats, who, I might add, has gifted me with membership. As you enter the energy field of a herd, thought ceases. You are aware of who is here, and who is not. You also notice every noise: What’s that? Everyone stops, looks to you. Is it safe? Shall we run?

It’s okay, you say, only a bird. Their tails relax, and they continue browsing and walking, all the while keeping an eye on you, of course.
But the story: we had only pygmy goats at the time, and the queen goat was an especially petite grey pygmy named Natalie. Those first goats were “disbudded” or hornless, a practice Biodynamics discourages and we no longer do, but my sons were young and I was new to goats and vulnerable to biases against horns.

That day I was out with the herd, walking the driveway to our building site. Suddenly, a neighbor’s boxer charged up, barking crazily. Instinctively I ran toward the dog, grabbing its collar. Instinctively, the goats followed me, butting the dog repeatedly. By now my husband was alerted to the situation by my screaming, and expecting a disaster, ran to help. He was shocked to see the dog was getting the brunt of it!

But the truth is, I endangered those little hornless pygmies by going after the dog when the goats would follow me. I had behaved wrongly, given I was a leading member of a herd of animals of prey. I was behaving like a predator! I should have run, staying in the back of the herd to fight off the dog if needed while the goats ran on.

The conversation with David Friday evening then turned to bees, and beekeeping, and that state of mind of the beekeeper. If you approach of a hive of bees without consideration of being in communication with them, not staying calm and attuned to the nature of that particular hive, you will stimulate aggression in the bees. They fight back, sacrificing their lives to protect the hive. If you get bumped by a bee, or stung, best to calm down, talk to the hive, ask permission. They feel if we are fearful or angry and respond aggressively.

In his book Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology, David postulates that we are in mind, all of us; versus mind being only in us, and particularly, in our heads. “Mind arises, and dwells, between the body and the Earth, and hence is as much an attribute of this leafing world as of our own immodest species” (p.111), he asserts. “In truth, it’s likely that our solitary sense of inwardness…is born of the forgetting, or sublimation, of a much more ancient interiority that was once our common birthright―the ancestral sense of the surrounding earthly cosmos as the voluminous inside of an immense Body, or Tent, or Temple” (p. 154).

Some of David’s genius is in his call to reconsider this larger sense of mind. Mind understood in this way is like being in a hive of bees or a herd of goats. We are only a part of this universe, and our actions impact all. We injure the environment and all that resides within, including ourselves, when we act without consideration of the ripple effect of everything we do. Only by attuning ourselves to this larger reality that we as a species used to know so intimately, can we find our way out of the ego-centric destruction of our earth, in part afforded by our developing intellects that have separated from this larger sense of mind.

Animals can help us do this.
Relaxed mother goats and kids browsing.
The Environmental Crisis and the Living Quest of the Embodied Psyche, David Abram in Conversation with Patricia Damery. February 10, 2012, at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA.  Presented by the C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco, CA.