Friday, February 20, 2009

Each Has Its Own Way

The tragic incident of the pet chimpanzee attacking the owner's friend has spurred a lot of comments on the news and in the blogosphere. I had wanted to let the issue sit within me for a few days before offering my opinion.

In one respect, I think it's very important to honor all beings. The animals who live in our homes should be afforded respect and dignity. They ARE part of the family -- both individual families and the family of Tao. We need to treat them as unique individuals with their own specific personalities.

That said, Sandra Herold went too far. It's one thing to nurture a "pet" (personally, I don't like that word), but it's quite another to treat one being as if it is something else. In this specific case, Herold treated Travis the Chimp as a human being. According to published reports, she bathed with him, slept with him and treated him as a surrogate for her late husband.

Like with each human, animals have a way (or path). Much of their way is instinctual -- biologically pre-programmed. Each species reacts to stimuli based on their instincts and, when we forget this, it is at our own peril.

So, from a Taoist perspective, what went wrong in this particular situation is that Sandra Herold tried to force Travis on a path that was unnatural for him. She tried to supersede her will for his and his will ultimately won out (as it should).

This analysis is not to suggest that future chimpanzees cannot evolve to the point in which they are more human-like. If this turns out to be their way, then, maybe, the world's future will mimic Planet of the Apes. But for right now, this is not their way and no amount of a person's willing can change this fact.

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