The connection between animals and humans is one of the most primordial bonds that we experience. Rare is the person that doesn’t love his or her horse, dog, cat, bird, or fish. It begs a few questions: what exactly is this bond, how is it communicated, and why does it go so deep?
To get a taste of this bond, watch the video about Christian the lion who was held in captivity and then released into the wild. A year after his release his former human ‘parents’ sought him out, wondering if Christian would remember them. The end of this video made me laugh and cry all at the same time. It felt wonderful! That feeling is the bond. What I find even more fascinating is how the lioness came over and treated the humans the same way. She never knew these people. What is she demonstrating that is different than Christian?
Okay, enough questions, let’s attempt a few short answers and take a stab at answering the first question, what exactly is that feeling? Clearly there isn’t a single word that can accurately describe the feeling (duh, it’s a feeling) except perhaps one: love, more specifically, agape or universal love. Next, how is it communicated? Well clearly it wasn’t oral, and I didn’t see any smoke signals, so there is some unspoken, unwritten, and apparently universal language at work here. More importantly however, what are they communicating? Mom and dad humans demonstrated compassion by taking in Christian. They also appear to be happy, tender, and rather bold. They clearly were not worried about money, or afraid this lion king would harm them. Their act of kindness was generous, expecting nothing in return—no raises, promotions, or stock options. Imagine that!
It appears what we have here is a pure, random act of kindness. I am sure raising Christian also involved a great deal of patience, tolerance, and sacrifice as well. As far at the Lioness is concerned, I would have to call that one trust; she trusted Christian’s judgment (it’s not like he ordered her over). I further suspect she saw him having a lot of fun playing, so maybe she was curious as well. I should point out that I assume neither of the lions was starving.
Let’s add all this up and see what they were communicating. Our fellow humans demonstrated a long list of universal values and virtues: trust, confidence, courage, generosity, compassion, concern, faith, selflessness, kindness, patience, sacrifice, and tolerance. I’m going to add all those up and call it the ladder of love to borrow the phrase from Plato.
The final question, and perhaps the most important when evaluating the human-animal bond, is why do we feel this so deeply? I believe the answer is in the first sentence, it is a primordial connection. Deep within 100 trillion cells, buried in the code of our DNA, there is a subconscious knowing that goes beyond time, space, language, or race. It goes beyond ideologies, species, theologies, or theses. We know that we are all a part of the circle of life. Whether beast or man, we are all breathing the same air and drinking the same water and we all form a closed system that is simultaneously creating, maintaining, and dissolving each other in the one (uni) song (verse) of life. In closing, I am reminded of The Lion King and I can actually hear Elton John singing the Circle of Life, “It’s the Circle of Life, and it moves us all, through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place, on the path unwinding, in the Circle, the Circle of Life.”