Today my dear friend had to put down her long-term pal, her pet dog of some fifteen years. She said to me that her dog just couldn’t live the life that she loved any longer and difficult as it was, she knew it was the right thing. It’s a story I have heard before and it reminds me that we are not alone on this planet, that we share it with all manner of creatures, many of whom live closely with us and give us loyalty and devotion, no matter who we are or what we think we might have done to make ourselves undeserving of such adoration.
Over the past month or so, I have been thinking about the sea creatures in my local Vancouver aquarium. I was visiting the aquarium one day, many years ago, and standing in front of the thick plate-glass separating me from the Beluga whales. I have long thought that they are beautiful creatures and very intelligent. Biologists continue to learn about how sophisticated their language skills are and how tight is their aquatic community. No wonder the coast indigenous people have revered them for so long!
Sacrifice and a gift
It struck me, as I stood there, that it must be torture for creatures, who use sonar to navigate and communicate, who roam the vast ocean regions that they do, to be shut into such a small concrete pool with surfaces that bounce the sonar around. I felt sad. I stood entranced with their movements for quite a long time before a thought came into my head. It was as if the whales were talking to me. The gist of it was that they could endure this environment because they were providing a service to all of us humans who file past and partake of their energy every day. They were sharing their peace and beauty with us, up close and personal. I felt quite tearful. I don’t know if I was correct in my assumptions, or just assuaging my guilt, but I left feeling very grateful that they are on this planet.
Conversation with my Kaffee Klatch the other day turned to the subject of the recent documentary on television about octopuses and how intelligent they are. They were shown figuring out how to get food out of a closed box without getting trapped themselves, and then learning by watching one another. I have also seen a presentation about cuttle fish who are similarly intelligent. This information is a relief to me. If we are NOT the only intelligent life on the planet, then maybe there is still hope that we won’t destroy it. As we figure out that the other life forms, plant and animal, are valuable for more than just serving our purposes, maybe we will begin to appreciate that we are a COMMUNITY that could serve one another, given the chance and enough mutual respect.
There’s medical ethics, legal ethics, Harvard is now teaching business ethics; I imagine there must be bio-ethics as well. I’ll have to Google it!