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Animals/Interspecies Communication
Record Type: Review   ID: 5

Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals.

Hogan, Linda, Metzger, Deena, & Peterson, Brenda. (Eds.).

 This is a beautiful book, a book to make you weep because it is so in line with the sacredness of Earth and all forms of life. The emphasis is on righting the relationship of humans to animals, wild and tame. It is written by women, who ache because "humans have lost their more intimate relationships with animals as peers, teachers, and kindred allies. For centuries now, male priests, doctors, and scientists have declared animals as a territory to be approached with objectivity and detachment. And in these last centuries we have become increasingly separated from animals and the natural world. We’ve been taught to see them as creatures who have no soul, no capacity for pain, emotion, intelligence, or worth. In Claude Bernard’s Physiology, he states that "A man of science no longer hears the cry of animals, the blood that flows...he sees only his idea" (p. xii). Today, with the advent of the Gaia hypothesis and the concept of a living earth, including matter, which the editors point out is a resurrected form of ancient and tribal knowledge, as well as the Deep Ecology and animal rights movements have begun to right the balance that has been tipped so one-sidedly by medicine, science, and even Western philosophy and religion. The editors point out that women have played a leading role in bringing about these transformations, perhaps because women’s approach to relationship differs from that of men. They note: "What women have brought into the equation is a respect for feeling and empathy as tools to create intimate bonds of connection....Historically we have been identified with animals" (p. xiii). The basic philosophy underlying this book is one that is often an aftereffect of an exceptional human experience: "Because we share with [animals] the same life force, to know the animal other as worthy, alive, and even as a beloved peer is to be truly in relationship with the powerful forces of creation itself. To acknowledge and even cherish the intelligence in other forms of life is to sustain our own futures. To honor intimacy across the seeming boundaries of species is to return the sacred to the world. We are all the same world inside different skins, and with different intelligences" (p. xiv). The editors point out that "this is a book of changing stories, ongoing transformation and creation, by women who are struggling to protect and look after the world. It reports the changing story of our lives in this time of history as well as those of our sister creatures" (p. xv). In a sense many of these accounts are of exceptional human experiences, projects of transcendence, and even EHE autobiographies. We consider interspecies communication and intimate encounters with animals of any species exceptional experiences that present the experiencer with the opportunity to extend his or her boundaries into new areas of human being that are in line with our greater nature. And as the editors themselves say, "the women in this anthology are describing a new creation, the creation of emotional and physical bridges, lifelines between species, that take us to new ways of being human in our shared worlds" (p. xv). There are six marvelous sections: First People; Deep Science; Living in the Field; Borderlines: The Domesticated Wild; Relationships: Learning From Animals; Come Into Animal Presence: Testimonies; and Restoration: Bringing Back the Animals. There are 71 descriptions by contributors of 75 accounts that will bring tears of both joy and sorrow. It is difficult to see how anyone could read these stories and not come away from the book with Rilke’s ringing words shouting from within and without: "You must change your life." This book underlines the fact that the nature you change will be that of life itself.
Publisher Information:Santa Monica, CA: Ballantine, 1998. viii + 455p. 6 illus; 37 refs.
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