Animal. Human as an animal.


Forget yourself. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment.

~Yayoi Kusama

“You’re an animal!!”

Being called an animal is often meant as an insult—a suggestion that we’re not “civilized,” that we don’t have control over our impulses. But there are other ways we can interpret our animal nature. We can take it to mean that we’re in tune with the world around us, that we pay attention to our senses and what they’re telling us, that we’re aware of and comfortable with nature.

Of course, the thing that sets us apart from “other animals” is our brain, which gives us the ability to reason and our sense of self. While it does set us apart, it doesn’t have to draw a hard line between us and other animals. We have lived for so long without the need to pay attention to the world around us that many of us have lost the inclination. We only see the natural elements of our world when we make a concerted effort or in extreme circumstances.

What does being an animal mean?

Some people wake up in their houses, drive cars to work, spend all day inside at work, drive back home or to some other inside environment then go back to sleep inside. They might spend some time at the beach, engaged in some sport, or take care of our lawns, but, for the most part, they don’t pay much attention to the environment.

Let’s think about the other extreme. Consider how our early species’ ancestors lived. They subsisted on what they killed and what they found. They had to have a keen understanding of the movements and behaviors of other animals, of the plants that provided their necessary nutrients, and of the plants that were dangerous. They had to be aware of seasonal shifts in the weather and of how these impacted their environment. They had to be master naturalists.

They also had to endure hardships related to their environment. They had to endure the heat and survive the cold. They had to endure pests like insects and be aware of and evade predators. If things went south, they could very easily have starved to death, been killed by animals, or succumbed to injury or illness.

We can be more like animals, but why would we want to?

I’m certainly not suggesting that we abandon those modern conveniences that can help keep us healthy, productive, and comfortable. I’m suggesting that we don’t abandon our animal instincts altogether. Being more like animals means being more aware of our surroundings. It means being more resilient in the face of disasters. It means living our lives as our bodies were designed to. How can we explore our animal nature and figure out how to incorporate it into our lives?

Are you an animal?

How much do you embrace your animal nature? To what extent are you in touch with and aware of your natural surroundings, and how connected are you to the natural world? Can you spend a couple of days in a natural environment without thinking about how much you miss a comfortable chair, air conditioning, or getting away from the bugs? Do you notice the subtle changes in the weather, the smells of different plants, or the sounds of the animals?

I like to take walks at night, let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and really pay attention to the sounds and smells of the night. I put myself in an animal’s place and try to behave like part of the environment. Not only is this kind of fun, it’s also good for me. The heightened awareness and movement that come with interacting with the natural environment have benefits, including higher metabolism, better health, and a more positive outlook.

Our animal nature is part of who we are, regardless of how much attention we pay to it. We can embrace that part of ourselves without abandoning the aspects of the modern world that make our lives better.

Are you an animal?

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