09 November 2004

Gary Snyder on Animality

Do you really believe you are an animal? We are now taught this in school. It is a wonderful piece of information: I have been enjoying it all my life and I come back to it over and over again, as something to investigate and test. I grew up on a small farm with cows and chickens, and with a second-growth forest right at the back fence, so I had the good fortune of seeing the human and animal as in the same realm. But many people who have been hearing this since childhood have not absorbed the implications of it, perhaps feel remote from the nonhuman world, are not sure they are animals. They would like to feel they might be something better than animals. That’s understandable: other animals might feel they are something different than “just animals” too. But we must contemplate the shared ground of our common biological being before emphasizing the differences.

(Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild [San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990], 15-6 [italics in original])

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