Saturday, May 26, 2007

Through the Windows

I recently posed a question to my two roommates: "is an animal the same in its natural environs and behavior as it is after someone (read here: National Geographic, the Discovery channel, researchers) comes in and sets up camp watching them be in their natural surroundings?" I have to admit the answers were surprising. Though I knew what answer I was looking for, I was trying to make a point about how my husband and I interact differently now that my brother has moved in with us for the summer and though I try my best to be "me", there is now a different dynamic in our home. My thought pattern was that it is hard for Joshua and me to maintain a level or normality when there is another observer watching us, learning from us and interacting with our behaviors.

Taylor's response to my question was a very thoughtful negative. He presented the point that there is something to be said for eyes. Animals can acknowledge another living being by the presence of eyes. He suggested that the chimpanzees acted differently when Jane Goodall entered their domain and that they compensated their behaviors for her presence. They acknowledged her as being another 'animal' or like creature because at the most basic level, she had eyes, she was watching them, she was learning from them.

I was out riding this last week and my horse, Sovereign, is a draft horse that makes Clydesdales look like the cute little ponies at the fair. I was having a particularly good day before I reached the stables, my eyes were soft and gentle and I think Sovereign could recognize that. When I went out to retrieve him from the pasture, he immediately came to me and watched me as I spoke affirming words to him (males always need affirmation... I don't care what kind of mammal). I started to lead him in to the barns to tack up and he passed behind me and lovingly nudged my back (author’s note: his head is roughly the size of my torso), I laughed and he whinnied playfully. Sovereign and I had a rough start in our relationship, but he accepts my leadership now and though I am one of his smallest riders, he listens and stays attentive to me when I move. I relate that directly to my contact with him before I start my ride. I look at Sovereign, he looks into my eyes when I talk to him and I let him watch me while I tack him up. I stay in positive physical contact with him and he notices the difference that though I am a far inferior and inexperienced rider my mannerisms are distinctive to him.

Eyes are the windows to the soul. As humans we can tell when another is not genuinely happy or when they are lying or when they are searching for something: it is in their eyes. We see worry and insightfully we can see fear, but humans see their world through their eyes, and so we see their world through their eyes. Sally Field is quoted as having said “it took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes”.

So no, the animal in captivity is not the same in the wild, nor is an animal being watched the same as him being free and uninhibited without eyes to follow him. More importantly the eyes we use to see are those that detail to the rest of the world an availability to see into our inmost being: our soul.

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