Expanding our concept of ‘community’

“But when the mind opens, and reveals the laws which traverse the universe, and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of this mind. What am I? And what is? asks the human spirit with a curiosity new-kindled, but never to be quenched. Behold these outrunning laws, which our imperfect apprehension can see tend this way and that, but not come full circle.”

 

It came to me in a recent reflection that my time in this graduate program has shaped not only my understanding of Anthrozoology as a field of scientific inquiry but also my view of the world and place within it.  There must be, I thought, a way to integrate health and wellness into a broader paradigm of ‘community’, one that acknowledges the rightful place of other animals in policy discussions that affect not only our own ability to flourish but that of our greater-than-human community to do so as well.

Early in the program, courses in animal law, ethics and public policy illuminated the foundational themes of anthropocentrism & human exceptionalism, creating an opportunity to view challenges through a new lens. The interdisciplinary nature of this program has satisfied my own search for a more holistic framework for science, founded on the interconnectedness of all things, including spirit.  This program has served to quell a dissonance that persisted throughout my previous studies: that no matter how much we seek to categorize or group them by anatomy, physiology or cognition, non-human animals are individuals, experiencing their own realities which we can only begin to understand.

Unlearning old, reductionist ways of doing science (and some of its biases and preconceptions) has been liberating and emerging areas of inquiry are endless as people become more curious about the others, not just in terms of their value to us but in the context of their own intrinsic value.

There is so much more to learn, but I feel as though the experience in Canisius’ Anthrozoology program has been a transformative one for me.  I often tell people that I wish I had found this program as an undergraduate studying biology (almost 30 years ago), but the world apparently wasn’t ready for “ANZOs” then…and likely, I hadn’t yet seen enough to be ready to be one either.

One of my many nonhuman teachers

“…I look for the new Teacher that shall follow so far those shining laws that he shall see them come full circle; shall see their rounding complete grace; shall see the world to be the mirror of the soul; shall see the identity of the law of gravitation with purity of the heart; and shall show that the Ought, that Duty, is one thing with Science, with Beauty, and with Joy. ”  

~Ralph Waldo Emerson (Harvard Divinity School    Address)