Deep Ecology, Ethics & Whole Community | August 22, 2013
A researcher was exploring the relationship between tropical reef fish who carried parasites and the fish who groomed them. He was trying to understand the interaction and all the possible factors involved. At one point he lowered a bent wire into the tank, approached a fish with it, and stroked it gently along its side, simulating the action of a groomer. PBS filmed it. You can see the fish holding still, fins waving slowly in the water to keep it stationary. The scientist’s conclusion: the fish liked being gently tickled. You could say of course that they liked the sensation because their brains were wired to experience it as pleasant so they would voluntarily stay still and allow the groomer fish to remove parasites. But isn’t that why any of us like something? We are wired to like what is good for us (chocolate, cultural influences and a few other things aside). Liking something is an adaptation to make us want to generally do things that are good for our survival. There are many healthy things that we are simply naturally attracted to – we want to do them or experience them. They feel good. I was sitting in a meditation garden the other day, filled with roses, ferns, the sound of trickling water, a pond and water-lilies. I looked up to see a strange scene. There was a tall woman in a broad-brimmed sun hat bent over at the waist as if in homage to something I couldn’t see. She was peering intently at the top of a thin metal post and periodically moving her forefinger gently in the air. Then she would straighten up for a while, bend over again and repeat this activity. After a considerable amount of time she placed her hands together, bowed in a gesture of prayerful gratitude and left. Curious, I got up and wandered over. Perched on the top of the post was a large, gorgeous bright orange dragonfly. She came back later and I asked what she had been doing. She said “Petting a dragonfly.” I repeated “Petting a dragonfly?” She replied “Yes. It seemed to like it on its wings and its little legs.” It seemed unbelievable. But I had seen what I had seen. Did it like it? Why was he allowing it? It certainly hadn’t flown off . . . And well . . . why not? Some time ago I was assisting in a movie, holding a restless wolf on a leash while we awaited his scene. Instinctively I started to massage him along his spine, his hips. His whole attitude changed and as I got into it more he simply drooped in ecstasy. He forgot all his tension and leaned against me melting into the massage. I have since discovered that all our wolves like massage. And coyotes. And foxes. And cougars. And wild burros. And bison. Bluebell the buffalo has gone so far as to demand it since she has accepted people as her herd. Whenever we have guests she comes ambling over and leans against the fence asking to be petted. Even more, when energy healers visit she “requests” energy healing standing there soaking it in and refusing to budge, grunting when they leave, following along the fence. Guests could stay there a very long time. We often hear in these times how we are all connected, we are all one. It is true I believe, but it is abstract. However a dragonfly and fish and wolf and bison all enjoying being petted . . . that brings it home in a vivid instinctive understandable way. And the more we look, the more we spend time, the more commonalities we see. It leaves us with a warm sense of company; companionship, comradeship, all of us sharing the gift of life at this specific period of time on earth.