Nov 10 2013

Widening Our Circle of Compassion

“God made the wild animals according to their kinds… And God saw that it was good.”  Genesis 1:25

_CES1181Yesterday I was part of two conversations that had a similar theme.  I went out to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area to photograph the birds that are starting to migrate into the region.  I spent about an hour photographing a number of different species from a stand overlooking a pond.  When I climbed down and was loading my equipment into my car a man in a truck drove up, stopped, rolled down his window and said “Glad there aren’t more snow geese out there.”  I actually thought at first he had said he “was glad to see some snow geese out there” but he went on to say “There were so many of them last year that they ruined our refuge.  We didn’t have many waterfowl to hunt.”  He then drove off.  I was amused by the conversation because just a few minutes earlier I was giving thanks for having some snow geese to photograph.  I also found it ironic because I’m getting ready to spend a good bit of money to go out and photograph thousands of snow geese at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

_CES0461Later in the evening I was at an event and was sitting at a table enjoying a meal.  I had my iPhone with me and showed some people the squirrel image you see here.  I took the picture earlier in the week at a local park.  When one person saw the squirrel she said “I don’t like squirrels.  They eat all my bird feed.”  Once again I was amused.  I have very few good squirrel pictures and was thrilled to get this one.  Having just had the conversation with the stranger about snow geese an hour before I couldn’t help but marvel at how selective we can be about which creatures we like and dislike.  Rob Sheppard has written at this site before about how people tend to like animals, such as bears and whales, that capture our imagination, but find other creatures, like spiders, appalling.   Part of me can understand why some people might like bears over spiders (I’m one of those people) but here we are talking about the difference between species of birds on the one hand and two common backyard species that are fun to watch on the other.  Still, sharp lines were drawn.  One species was considered better than the other.

eCES8248Are some species better or more important than others?  It might pay us to ponder this question but before we answer it we would have to figure out from whose perspective would we be making the distinction.  Do you get to make the call or do I?  In the end, I would suggest, the answer is neither.  That is God’s call.  Perhaps God would say some creatures are better or more important than others.  Then again, perhaps not.  Being their Creator God may have an equal love and appreciation for all the creatures He has made.  Regardless I do believe that we should try to look at all species from a broader perspective than our own.  I also would suggest that since God made all species that we should try to learn to grow in our appreciation of every one of them.  Albert Einstein once wrote, “Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”   I encourage you to take seriously that task.  Ask God to help you widen your circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures.  Doing so could make a huge difference in how you see the world and your Creator too.  It might also make a difference somewhere down the road on the survival of some species.  This makes our task an important one indeed.


Oct 3 2010

The Communion of Saints and Creatures

Snow-Goose-landing“Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you–the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground–so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”  (God’s word to Noah in Genesis 8:17)

Today is World Communion Sunday.  On this day Christians worldwide share Communion and also reflect on how we are all one in the Body of Christ.  The Lord’s Supper should remind us that despite different beliefs and practices that sometimes separate us we are still united in Christ.

Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis.  Francis of Assisi has come to be known as the patron saint of both ecology and animals.  Many churches have a blessing of animals on October 4.  St. Francis was known to preach to the animals and considered them his brothers and sisters.  He believed that God loved the animals and that so should we.

I find it interesting that World Communion Sunday and the Feast of St. Francis are joined next to each other on the calendar this year.  One reminds us of our communion with other believers while the other reminds us of our communion with other creatures.  In the world we live in, both reminders are needed.

Brown-Bear-163Over the past few days I’ve been watching the BBC series “Life.”  Rob recommended this series to me earlier this year so I bought the DVD set.  As I have watched the various segments of this series I have been reminded that we humans truly do share a bond with all of God’s creatures.  We tend to focus on what sets humans apart from other creatures but there is really far more that links us with other creatures.

It is certainly worth noting that we all share the same Creator.  The same God who made us also created the birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and fish.   We also, of course, share the same planet.  We are all dependent on the same basic things—the sun, the air, water, and food.  We all depend on our parents’ nurture and protection in infancy and we all have a strong will to live and reproduce. 

I think that our lives would be enhanced in many ways if we Christians could grasp not just the concept of the “communion of saints” but our communion with all of Creation as well.  It would change how we see Creation and how we live out our lives on this planet.  God has already established this communion; it is now our task to take part in it.


(The top image is a snow goose I photographed in New Mexico and the bottom a brown bear or grizzly photographed in Alaska.)