A few days ago I watched a video of animal clips sent to me by a friend. The animals were interacting with other animals and people with such tenderness, it made me wish I were an animal. Well, I am a human animal, so I guess what I wish is that we human animals were the nice, accepting, tolerant, tender type of animal. Oh yeah, I wish we were also the reasonable type of animal (darn politics). I think Aristotle may have been premature in declaring human beings “rational beings,” living by “reasoning.” Or perhaps we have evolved leaving reason behind, like we did with tails. That’s sad (loss of reason, not loss of tails).
In the video a cat nuzzled a horse; a dog and lion gave each other a low five; a dog insisted on having his paw in a woman’s hand; another dog rocked a baby, and yet another dog gently nuzzled and watched over a baby. The video had a dog bias; not that dogs aren’t great, but I wish cats had equal screen time. Even though dogs were the stars of the video, a bird was featured in a clip of an owl allowing a child to hug and caress it.
Absent in the video was any display of fear. The animals weren’t afraid of people or other animals (even animals that were traditionally adversaries). Lack of fear set them free allowing them to interact. I do think that the parents of the little girl should have been afraid to let her get up close with the owl. It could have clawed her eyes out! But it didn’t. It was a nice cuddly owl.
Fear has no place in retirement. Fear keeps us retirees from having fun. Fear turns “I want to go on a road trip to the Grand Canyon,” into “If I go on a road trip to the Grand Canyon I’ll probably breakdown while driving there, and then fall in once I get there.” Fear turns, “I want to pet that lion,” into “I want to live, so I’m not going to pet that lion.” Fear turns “I want to hug that owl” into “I still have my eyes, because I didn’t hug that owl.” I guess fear manifesting as caution is okay. Fear can, however, stifle creativity. In the kitchen, cooking creativity is stifled by thoughts like “if I mix this with that, it will taste horrible.” Thoughts like that would have kept carrot out of cake, tequila out of light beer with lime and zucchini out of brownies (don’t let fear keep you from throwing some shredded zucchini in your brownie batter – it’s good). Fear can also keep us from interacting with other human animals that look different, or sound different, or behave differently than we do. We miss out on a lot of good times and possible friends because of fear.
As I watch a friend near death, I see how letting go of fear allows her to enjoy every moment of her life and joyfully anticipate what comes after her mortal life. As I watch a video of a dog hanging out with a lion, I think we have a lot to learn from animals.