“Sentience” is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively; to have consciousness; to suffer. Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism have long recognized the sentience of animals, which is why they don’t eat them; while Native Americans and other indigenous peoples have honored the spirit of all things—including plants and even stones (“grandfathers”) and elements such as wind, water, fire, and earth.
This is not mere poetry. In indigenous cosmology the Earth is our mother—giving us everything we need to live; the sun is our father—giving life to the plants who feed everyone else. Our family includes all of creation, which is why we are obliged to treat it well—as we would our human relatives.
Science increasingly confirms what these traditions have acknowledged all along—that “even” plants respond to our intentions, their environment, and have their own ways of communicating. They may even experience pain, have memories, and recoil from suffering.
If all this is true, we are forced to acknowledge that our lives involve the gifts—indeed, the sacrifice and suffering—of many fellow souls. Others die that we may live. We can’t avoid this, but we can do our best to minimize it. And we can be humble and grateful for the generosity of nature and these myriad other beings. We can acknowledge the debt we owe to them and enter into relationships of respect and reciprocity.
The MOON’s lead interview this month is with Dr. Gay Bradshaw, a psychologist and ecologist who argues passionately for the rights of animals to freedom and self-determination—and all that that implies.
Other contributors, Petra Heidenreich, an animal communicator; and Sara Fancy, who involves horses in her therapeutic work with humans, write about the powerful emotional bonds we can have with animals and the explicit communications of which they are capable; while Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, writes about the ways in which we rob ourselves of this communication by our all-pervasive tendency to objectify. She encourages us to learn “the grammar of animacy” again. Derrick Jensen urges us to give up the world of make-believe we inhabit and return to the real world that awaits us–one that is ready to speak, if only we would remember how to listen.
This month’s MOON offers two short stories exploring non-human soulfulness—each with a surprising ending, and two poems—each offering insight into sentient beings with whom we share our lives. Plus MOON Shine, Movies You Might’ve Missed, and a Gallery of Sentience—all in the January issue.
If you love The MOON and want to keep it shining, please consider making a secure online donation. The MOON relies entirely on Earthlings for its support. Thank you!
Photo credit: Protect a Cow