Monday, April 26, 2010

What is the difference?

Hold on, this is going to be a wild ride!

I can see that this topic might be around a while. Rather than debating details, let's ask some bigger questions first. Lets explore, not explain.
  1. Is there a difference between humans and (other) animals besides physiology?
  2. If there is a difference between humans and (other) animals, what is it?
  3. Do animals have something to teach humans?
  4. Do humans have something to teach animals?
  5. Do humans have a responsibility to care for/protect (other) animals?
Here's the quote in question (thanks Jenny):
"Besides the rebuilding of the horse’s entire musculature, herd living makes a horse very primitive and stupid, and returns the horse to the world of primitive ideas and manners."
I originally helped translate this (and several other of Alexander's articles) into English. I don't speak much Russian but the articles come to me very loosely translated into English and then I work for many hours (usually via Skype) with a native Russian speaker who knows Alexander to come up with a translation that is as close as possible to his original meaning yet understandable in English. As I was working on this particular article I knew that the translated version would be controversial.

From all of the different Russian speakers I've worked with, I am reminded that Alexander has a very sophisticated way of writing and explaining things that I don't think we've ever been able to do justice to in English. I could tell by being with him in person that the translations I was getting were only a shadow of the subtleties and wit that native Russian speakers are able to have access to. Other evidence of this is that he has thousands of students on the Russian side of the NHE forum (those who can read his words directly) and relatively few on the International side who read his words through translation.

All of that is to say that it is more important to get the feeling of that quote rather than get caught up in the exact words which were chosen. In general, I'd stick with what I remembered it as in the last post, that herd living is a degenerate situation compared to other options. Never have I heard that he means that horses shouldn't live that way, or that people shouldn't support horses living that way. My understanding is that his sentiment only applies if the goal is to teach the horse haute ecole and the apparently human values of certain types of intelligence.

Here is a quick sampling of interesting things to ponder from your comments to the last post. Keep these in mind as you answer the 5 questions above.

Jenny:
We can know for sure what horses prefer, when we give them freedom to choose. That I don't know if Nevzorov's horses have had. "Would you like to go out and play with your mates or come and learn some Latin?" If they would choose Latin, then I'd be impressed.

I still have to add, that I don't even feel like I would be able to educate my horse, I think my horse is educating me.
Helene:
What is the goal of this “new” natural horsemanship awareness? Will the goal be limited to delineate between riding the captive horses V/s not riding the captive horse? Is it about establishing the scope of its intelligence or re-evaluating the consequences of perpetuating its captivity?

The ultimate goal would probably be (as for all captive beings) emancipation and freedom. But I guess re-empowering the horse, reinstating its natural rights is probably unrealistic. Human traffic has not even been eradicated!
Eda:
How can really herd-life make horse "very primitive and stupid" if this herd-life is really his nature, his horse-sense and these "primitive ideas and manners" (like who's the leader, where's the danger, hey guy you are in my personal space without invitation etc) make the true horse living in the nature.

I think even if we want to teach the horse some "better" ideas, at least we should respect the ideas he naturally possesses!? Or how you see it?
June:
Where I would potentially take issue with Nevzorov is (not really in fact knowing where he is coming from - Stormy can help out) that he seems to be taking a very Apollonian view of things - that he will stamp his superior knowledge upon nature, without necessarily being very receptive himself to the wisdom emanating from the creatures to him.


Today the apple tree was in full bloom. This view is from the hill above it.

I worked with Patrik using the cordeo. Nobody was around to take any video...maybe tomorrow.
Today I got some video of Patrik eating the scotch broom blooms after the sun had set.

video

The moonrise was stunning, but unless you caught your own moonrise you'll have to make due with this poor picture of it.


Ok, here's your task...explore these questions:
  1. Is there a difference between humans and (other) animals besides physiology?
  2. If there is a difference between humans and (other) animals, what is it?
  3. Do animals have something to teach humans?
  4. Do humans have something to teach animals?
  5. Do humans have a responsibility to care for/protect (other) animals?

6 comments:

  1. Ok maybe I should go first before someone says something clever and I-don't-wanna anymore ;)

    1&2. Is there a difference between humans and (other) animals besides physiology? If there is a difference between humans and (other) animals, what is it?

    I think most of the differences many of us think we have are actually already proven wrong, at least most of the ones with what we try to possess superiority.

    One thing (I think?) is humans ability to learn from books. Learn theoretical stuff.

    3. Do animals have something to teach humans?

    Well I'd say a lot, if only most of us wouldn't lost the ability to listen.

    "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." - Chief Seattle

    4. Do humans have something to teach animals?

    Good question. Maybe to survive in this world that we have done "good" job destroying.

    5. Do humans have a responsibility to care for/protect (other) animals?

    Well I think this quote sums it up nicely if we include (other) animals to the expression Earth:

    "Mankind must be a steward of the Earth - Caretakers for all that dwells upon it."

    Stormy wrote: "Never have I heard that he means that horses shouldn't live that way, or that people shouldn't support horses living that way. My understanding is that his sentiment only applies if the goal is to teach the horse haute ecole and the apparently human values of certain types of intelligence."

    Good point (that I too missed earlier)!

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  2. Hi Stormy,

    This to me becomes an exploration of core spiritual values. In schools of Buddhism, for instance, animals are sentient beings who feel suffering. All life is interconnected … one family … and so what one does to another, one does to oneself. There is no difference between humans and animals other than physical form and some difference in intellectual capacity.

    Quantum physics tells us, too, that everything is energy … and the same energy permeates everything.

    Are we all living One Life together? I feel so.

    I do believe that yes, animals and humans have things to teach each other. Mostly us from them. Carolyn Resnick wrote: “Horses are the gatekeepers to human’s highest self.” If nothing else, I think we learn from them how to be “better” humans. More human. More humane.

    What do horses really need? Are the needs of our remaining wild horses different than the needs of our domesticated horses?

    I recently watched DVDs of a clinic where the teacher said that horses have two core needs: 1) a herd (which fulfills a horse’s need for safety, companionship, family, social order, food, mutual grooming, etc.) and 2) a loving leader. For the domestic horse, then, in the absence of a wild herd, it becomes the human caretaker’s role to fulfill those needs – to be the loved/loving leader AND the herd.

    Stormy, in your perception and from your experience with Alexander, does he fulfill those two core needs? And more?

    I am most intrigued that in Alexander’s bio it says he was a novice in a monastery … he has such a diverse background that he brings to his philosophy of NHE.

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  3. What is the difference?

    The human is the only animal on this planet who can ask such a question while assuming with a straight face (no jokes, please!) that the answer (whatever it may have been in the past or may be in the future) will legitimize and justify how HE (the human animal) relates to the rest of the universe.

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  4. 1. Yes.
    2. Humans are ultimately only satisfied by the infinite. ("Our heart is restless until it rests in You," St. Augustine.) Animals can be fulfilled by the finite. Only I rather think of it as 2 kinds of infinity - like the set of natural numbers is infinite but smaller than the set of rational numbers. So we're only satisfied by whatever infinity is biggest; while animals are satisfied by a smaller infinity.
    3. Yes.
    4. Yes.
    5. Yes. But it doesn't bind under sin.

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  5. Questions #1-2
    The main difference between humans and animals is in the attitude. Animals accept what is. Humans mostly refuse what is and constantly try to make things change in order to fit (what we believe to be) our interest.

    Questions #3-4
    Yes. It takes two to tango.

    Question #5
    I love Monica's quote:

    "Mankind must be a steward of the Earth - Caretakers for all that dwells upon it."

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  6. Answer to questions: 1,2,3,4 5.

    "A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
    Einstein

    Perhaps this “optical delusion of consciousness” is what too often leads to intolerance which supported by rationalization, can develop in different degrees of abuse – from condescendence to raw cruelty.

    Helene

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