Friday, January 18, 2013


     I got to wondering why I like spending time with my twelve chickens.  And why medical studies show that people who have dogs live longer, and "therapeutic pets" in nursing homes enliven the residents, and pigs and cows are treated as members of the family in some Asian cultures.
     People have cohabitated with animals as far back as recorded history goes.
     Theories about the "beneficial effects" of pets range from the mundane--having a dog means you  get exercise walking the dog, to the spiritual--animals carry mystical energy which keeps us in touch with the invisible ground of our being.
     But I prefer a more psychological explanation.
     Whenever I watch my chickens, and feed them, and delight in them, I am nurturing an aspect of myself which otherwise might disappear into the far reaches of my psyche, and go dormant.  Because chickens are so vulnerable, and need protection from nearly every creature bigger than them, they represent aspects of my soul which, too, are vulnerable, and need protection.  If I lose touch with these very real elements within me, I may languish and die.  Or, worse, I will be left with a shell of a life, like that of a molted crab--strong, glassy, pretty, rigidified, but empty of the warmth and wild, enigmatic, pulsating fervency that constitutes the life-force of the world.
     It's easy to ignore what seem like our soft, fragile, nugatory qualities, because in no way are they celebrated by the institutions we patronize in America.   You can be aggressive and cruel and acquisitive, and have kudos bestowed on you for all that.  But try expressing doubt, or feeling sad, or asking for help, and you're persona non grata.  It's impossible to become the president, for instance, if you admit to not knowing something, or feeling ambiguous--you're a "flip-flopper."
     Chickens are erratic, poorly armed, easily spooked, anxious, and hungry.   They don't meet our current standards for beautiful, they aren't cuddly, and they're constantly getting eaten.   When I spend time with my chickens, and even when I think about them while I'm away, I am giving attention to the fragile, unpretty, frightened, needy, defenseless aspects of my soul.  Like the insides of seeds, these feeling-states represent all of my potentiality.  They may look like weakness, within the context of our masculine value-system, but they are no weaker than the egg, or the uterus, or the embryo-- they represent the font of being, the place where new life begins, aspects of hope, resurrection.*
     Having chickens, and dogs, and cats, and horses--any pets--allows us to connect to deeper aspects of ourselves.  Every time we interact with our pets we are relating, as well, to ourselves--to less familiar, less urbane, and less prized parts of who we are.  That connection is vital.  It confers health, creativity, spontaneity and the capacity for love.  Our pets are beloved because our inner natures are calling on us for love and realization.  They are the places that are instinctual, bad-mannered, smelly, clamoring, and beggarly.  Nevertheless, they ask for the right to be.

    *God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27)
    *So the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Matthew 20:16).    

1 comment:

  1. to me this strikes a Jungian vein/nerve. I was truly moved reading this.

    thanks for making my day.