Copyright Ailsa Davison used by permission
On 2 April Katie Brown and Ailsa Davidson led worship. Even those of us who do not own pets could not fail to be moved by the service; and we were joined by three canine friends who were good ambassadors for their animal friends. Kris Calder gave us animal inspired chalice lighting words and Ida Silkenat read the ‘story for all ages’ Mr Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea. Full use was made of our new projector. Ailsa gave the address and we are pleased to print her reflection based on the address.
Our pets and animals bring joy, friendship and love to our lives, but is it possible they can help us with our spiritual growth and reflection too?
When I was young our family dog was Hobo, a black mongrel with a white chest patch. Hobo lived with us for seventeen years. He was a great playmate to me and my sister. He let us dress him up and sat patiently in the dolls pram while we pushed him around. He learned to sit on the plastic tray on the back of my ‘Shopper’ bike and would accompany me, side saddle as it were, on trips around the neighbourhood. In short, he loved being with us and we loved being with him.
Hobo gave to me a fundamental lesson in spiritual life and unconditional love. He taught me something invaluable when I was young, and that was a simple love, no questions asked, fully trusting, and an acceptance that you were okay just as you were.
Unfortunately, this is not a lesson easily understood through everyday life in the human world. Dogs want to love you no matter what.
There is a great scene in the children’s movie UP which illustrates this. Dug, the dog, meets Carl, one of the stories main characters. Dug is very, very excited to meet Carl for the first time rushing around exclaiming, ‘I’ve only just met you but I looovve you!’
Talk to any dog owner and they will laugh and readily agree that this sums up dogs generally.
In human society there are unfortunately not many Dugs. How fabulous would this world be if we could all give unconditional love to everyone we meet? Imagine the changes which would be brought about in society if we could genuinely feel that love for one another.
What else might animals teach us about the divine spirit?
Joy, I think, quite simply Joy.
Joy is above and beyond happiness, you cannot fake joy. In any moment you either have it or you don’t.
Our pets and animals, have, I believe got ‘it’.
Sometimes in human life joy is forgotten, I recently won a gift voucher in a raffle and that really should have made me joyous. I am a bit ashamed to say, however, that in this instance it didn’t really make an impact. At other times though, I’ve found something in nature that I really liked and that has given me joy: a bullfinch in the tree; a fleeting fox in the wood; an otter eating a fish. Simple pleasures.
Animals are in tune with the gifts of joy nature can bring; the dawn chorus is currently rising to its crescendo singing loud in recognition of the approaching summer; lambs gambolling and springing in the fields; the lazy lure of warm stones for sunbathing squirrels.
Animals also express their joy easily. Pets especially enjoy their connection with their human owners, and in our house at least, the dog is usually the most enthusiastic to greet my return after a few days away.
So animals and pets can be great spiritual teachers. May we all take a second look at the animals we know, and perhaps see there something that we had not seen before.
The photographs are by Jane Aaronson and Christina Hamilton.