By Jim Hagarty
One thing to know about me, and something I freely own up to, is I know a little bit about a lot of things and not a lot about anything.
Some things I know just are not things at all. It is a shock to me, sometimes, when someone points out that what I believe to be true is absolutely not true at all. It can be a bit embarrassing, but I just move on with the new information in place.
When I was a kid growing up on the farm, this much I knew: there was no connection between humans and non-humans and, of course, humans were superior. I liked non-humans like crazy and living on a farm, I was surrounded at all times by more non-humans than humans. Still, I did not have a lot of appreciation for anything that did not walk on two legs and was unable to talk, at least talk in a way that other humans could understand. It did not occur to me that animals, birds, insects and even plants could communicate with each other and with species not their own. They just moo’ed or whinnied or chirped for no particular reasons and that was that.
But 65 years on, I have a different appreciation now for the world around me. How this affects me today is the fact that I can’t kill anything any more. Anything. If a fly is buzzing around my head while I sit here typing, I capture it with my hand and release it outside. On the farm, I killed just way too many living things to make we want to do it again, even if I am annoyed. Yes, I am responsible for the deaths of lots of non-humans even today when I sit down to a nicely barbecued pork chop supper, but …
I think this is why I have changed my views. Enough tidbits of knowledge about the natural world has seeped into my brain over the years to give me a few different ideas about man’s dominance over the universe.
A few years ago, and don’t hold me too tightly to this information, but the story began circulating that the birds we see flying around are actually leftover dinosaurs. Their ancestors, those big guys that tromped around, stomping and roaring, died out 80 million years ago. And yet, these descendants of some of those dinos are still flying around. A bunch of them are cawing away in my backyard as I speak.
There are also certain kinds of chipmunks that were scurrying around when the dinosaurs were ripping it up. Even some groundhogs. When the asteroid hit and the dinosaurs died, many of the creatures who could take refuge underground emerged later to carry on. I am a enthusiastic genealogist but I can only trace my ancestry back a couple of hundred years. Some little chipmunks can lay claim to ancestry dating back 100 million years or more. That impresses me.
And then there is the origin of humans. Lots of theories, lots of evidence. We used to live in the trees, then came down to the ground when environmental disasters forced us to go looking on the plains for something to eat.
But before we climbed those trees, we somehow walked out of the ocean one day. And when we did, we were dragging tails behind us.
That sounds almost preposterous, doesn’t it?
Then this question that gets posed:
Why does a human being have a tailbone?
I think my feeling of superiority began to crumble a bit the first time in school that I learned that a human being is an animal.
We may be incredible animals and maybe we have gone a little farther than the non-human ones we see around us, but we are just a part of nature.
Over the years, dating back to the farm, some of my best friends have been non-human animals.
I am glad that has been the case.