Our expanding collective consciousness (excluding from this certain world leaders and groups who appear to have little if any consciousness or conscience) is beginning to appreciate that we are all in it together – our continued existence depends on the continuing existence of the natural world. We cannot be ‘the Crown of all creation’ by destroying it. Thomas Merton worried about the destruction of the natural world in the 1960s and countered potential criticism of people saying ‘why do you worry about birds, why not worry about people’. His answer was that he worried about both birds and people. ‘We are in the world and part of it, and we are destroying everything because we are destroying ourselves spiritually, morally and in every way. It is all part of the same sickness, it all hangs together.’
In a revealing essay Gosia Poks describes her personal attempts at ‘Recovering an Original Unity’. She writes about how traditional theology states that humans deserve love and help because they have immortal souls; but Christians still tend to deny animals the right to the same compassion. She reminds us that in this context, a few centuries ago, the best theologians fought one another over the question of whether non-white humans had a soul. Of course theological disputes can only ever reflect nothing but the current state of awareness of a group of decision-makers.
Behaving compassionately towards animals and with an awareness of our impact on the environment is not to do with rules or right answers, but with connection and compassion. Gosia, who lives in Poland, describes the community – the alternative community – that she has set up as ‘a parable of communion’… at the time of her writing (2015) it consisted of three cats, two dogs, a guinea pig, two women and with her very elderly parents occupying the ground floor, ‘in which the dog lies with the cat – to misquote Isaiah – and I, the alpha and leader of the pack, am the servant of communion.’ She goes on to describe how all the different waifs and strays arrived in her life in situations beyond her control, staying for the rest of their lives; it turned out that her own personal and professional plans turned out to be of secondary importance, and as she explains her current life has chosen her and not the other way round.
‘Time, energy, expenses, worries – the consequences you must accept when you try to be faithful to a calling.’ As soon as you say, ‘here I am Lord’ then God is at work, God is witnessed and we are answering in the name of God. She feels that animal rescue takes on a deeply spiritual dimension in the context of Matthew 25:40 – ‘whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.’ If the whole of creation is the work of love, and everything in it is our community, then all are our brothers and sisters, human and nonhuman animals, all of creation. The task is to recover the original unity.