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Archive for Monday, August 8, 2011

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Everyday Life: Living with the animals

August 8, 2011

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On May 20 the earth was supposed to be engulfed by earthquakes signaling the Rapture and the start of a process which would end five months later in the destruction of the universe. So I thought about animals. I thought about animals because apparently there are no animals in heaven. And not just in the Christian heaven, by the way. There are no animals in Islamic heaven. Or in Buddhist heavens (which are, however, temporary — a heavenly being could conceivably be reborn an animal in her next lifetime). No animals in Hindu heaven. No animals in hell. No plants either.

And this struck me as truly bizarre. Not having any evidence on the matter, I’m not arguing for or against various versions of heaven or hell. What’s bizarre is the way we isolate our idea of ourselves from the rest of the universe.

Right now (which is months before you’re reading this) I’m typing on a keyboard, my forearm a little below the elbow in contact with the wood of the desk. There’s a Band-Aid on the knuckle under my thumb from an unfortunate incident involving a microplane and a carrot. One floor below me is my old dog, presumably sleeping. A few small ants are trying to find something to eat in our kitchen, as they do every year around this time. Benign multi-legged creatures live in the bathroom drains, and sometimes one of them comes out and crawls along the floor. Worms are excreting soil in the flower beds. Grass and weeds are growing. The brown recluse spiders are hiding. The bacteria in my gut are keeping me alive.

You get the idea.

This isn’t a mystic vision. It’s just how things are. Thinking of a realm with only humanoids (people, angels, devils) in it is like thinking of a realm with only rabbits. Or a nose without nostrils, a square without vertices.

It’s one step from there to the ultimate in self-absorption, a world in which each of us is the only creature. Which much of the time is in fact the way we think of things (only I am real!), but luckily there’s a 1955 Little Lulu comic by John Stanley to set us straight. Basically, a little girl (who looks like Little Lulu but isn’t) complains about her life and wishes she didn’t have to deal with this that and the other. So Witch Hazel’s daughter Little Itch throws a spell and the little girl finds herself wandering through blank panels in which there is nothing but her. She becomes more and more frightened and disoriented, until she thinks of her mother and how sad her mother will be without her. Bingo, once she cares about somebody else the universe is restored.

This made a huge impression on me when I was a kid and I was delighted to find it online. You can find it too: www. foldedspace.org/comix/lulu/llitch.html. Happy reading.

— Judy Roitman can be reached at go@ljworld.com.

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