Is it Beautiful or Cruel?

What could be the attributes that separate us, humans, from animals and all creatures? We can recall the allegory that God created us humans (or a man symbolically) as His image.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 1:27

Then, God created animals and other creatures to be a man’s companions and dominating them as the part of the landscape that we call mother nature.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18-20

Genesis also says that God created animals and creatures on the fifth day, while He created us humans (or a man symbolically) on the sixth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Genesis 1:20-23

According to the text analysis, these two scenarios are due to compiling several creation myths and genealogies in the book of Genesis.

In any case, the story manifests the archetypal, collective dilemma of how we humans consider ourselves and treat animals and other creatures from the perspective of the entire biosphere.

We are all creatures. And yet, it seems an inevitable chasm exists between humans and the rest of animals and creatures, even though we as homo sapiens can trace us back to the same original family of primates with apes and monkeys in the animal kingdom tens of millions of years ago.

Humans have developed a bigger brain that can afford the emergence of self-consciousness, even though the mechanism of neural networks in the brain cells to generate consciousness is still unclear. At least, because of this evolutionary leap, for the first time in the history of the entire biosphere, one can see oneself from the meta-perspective. We humans (more strictly, our consciousness) can imagine ourselves around the world and beyond the universe.

Our consciousness is a third-person view, and it is not the simple second-person view like: “I eat an apple.” In the third-person perspective, it should be like: “Tom eats an apple.” More correctly, it should be: “I see Tom eat an apple” or “Tom sees he eats an apple.” This part of “I see” or “Tom sees” is the meta-perspective called self-consciousness.

That is why even the book of Genesis says that God created a man in his image. Our consciousness is like the eyes of God. From this view, we see ourselves in the world and the universe, and somehow, we stand in God’s sight. We see ourselves and how we behave, live, and die in this world. And we sense that God also sees ourselves and how we behave, live, and die in this world.

How about animals and other creatures? Do they see themselves in the same meta-perspective? We don’t know, and we assume they don’t. Or, even if they do, it should be primitive. So, our collective consciousness has two scenarios:

  • Animals and other creatures are part of the landscape as God created them only on the fifth day.
  • Or, they could be our companions as God found a man should not be alone.

And yet, our God’s view is far from perfect, and we don’t know why He created heaven and earth in the first place. Thus, from the birth of self-consciousness, we, humans, have had no choice but to reflect on the following existential questions:

  • Why am I who I am?
  • Why am I born in this world at this particular spacetime location?
  • Why do I live here and now in the way I live here and now?

These questions are the typical ones attributed to our self-consciousness. Perhaps, my dog doesn’t indulge herself with these questions. So do the rest of the animals and other creatures.

In a zoo, we can see a variety of animals. Do they pity themselves in their fate confined to the cages? Or, do they feel safe with the situation being away from the wild nature? Do they meditate on the way they live, asking themselves:

  • What is a zoo, by the way?
  • Who are those humans and other animals in this zoo?

For example, I imagine one orangutan sitting alone in the cage as if meditating on his fate and life. Or, I recall a group of dolphins playfully moving around in the vast aquarium. What do they think of themselves? Are they happy? If possible, I’d like to talk to them – my lovely dog, a melancholic orangutan, and playful dolphins.

  • How are you?
  • How is your life?
  • What do you think of your life?
  • Are you happy?
  • Have you ever asked yourself why you are who you are on earth?

Let me cite other not happy cases. How about those animals in the slaughterhouses? We can easily search and find many video clips featuring various slaughtering scenes. While I am not sure if it is the editing effect, almost all videos look ruthless.

Those animals are chickens, hogs, and beef cows. In the modernized factory-like slaughterhouse, the conveyor belts drag them mechanically without hesitation. The vast iron hooks hang them as if they are pieces of meat. They are.

At the moment of slaughtering, they are at the small chamber where either an electronic shock device or gunshot is the tool for execution, which looks mechanical, ruthless, and unmerciful. Is it a factory? It is undoubtedly a slaughterhouse.

The survival instinct of all those animals is intact until the last minute. They look scared and sad, trembling the body and resisting in vain against what happens to them at the next moment as if they know it.

Is it cruel? Because of this reality, people go for vegetarianism, even veganism. Others say that slaughtering is part of mother nature. In the savanna, carnivores hunt herbivores and sometimes eat them alive. The victims severely suffer from fear and pain, and yet that is part of mother nature. In the ocean, killer whales attack seal lions and eat them as if they play with toys. The victims severely suffer from fear and pain, and yet that is part of mother nature.

Is it cruel? I don’t know.

Often we call mother nature beautiful and cruel. Some species need to lay and spawn many eggs to survive, as predators eat most of them. We humans also tend to have many children under the high infant mortality rate.

Because of our bigger brains for self-consciousness, we humans have developed our civilizations by turning stones into bread. To feed 7.8 billion people on the globe, we need systems such as factory-like slaughterhouses and large-scale agricultural and livestock industries.

Is it part of mother nature? Can we call it beautiful and cruel?

We, humans, live in this world as part of mother nature. We are also beautiful and cruel. Only the difference is that our sight could be God’s. We met Him after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. And despite God’s sight, we can’t understand all His thoughts and plans. The ambivalence of both beauty and cruelty is the consequence of this partiality.

Our human history consists of many bloody events. Because of our incomplete God’s sight, we thought we could control the world, generating various religious, ideological views. As we know, the cruelest genocides are always from these false God-like views. We are extremely brutal in this perspective. But then, we can also count a long list of saints who lived and died selflessly amid all those brutalities. Life is cruel and yet beautiful, even though we cried against God, questioning why He was so silent, and why He has forsaken us.

Like animals and other creatures, if we could be entirely in the part of mother nature without self-consciousness, in this total acceptance, we could know God as Adam and Eve knew Him as well in the Garden of Eden. There was no dilemma and ambivalence between beauty and cruelty. But then, we have God’s sight partially. Since then, we have gotten bombarded with many questions in vain.

  • Does God exist?
  • Where is He?
  • How can I find or know Him?

And using God’s sight with our limited perspective and understanding, we also keep asking:

  • Are life and death beautiful or cruel?

Life is beautiful and cruel; therefore, it is neither/nor. Life is as it is. So is death. So is God.

Let me repeat the existential questions.

  • Why am I who I am?
  • Why am I born in this world at this particular spacetime location?
  • Why do I live here and now in the way I live here and now?

I don’t think all those animals and creatures have such questions. Or, even if they could, we have no way to talk with them. They live and die without reflecting on life and death, even though their survival instincts are real. They don’t indulge themselves with these questions. One clear thing is that they live the answers to these questions and die with them.

Because they already live and die according to the answers provided by mother nature, or, if I could say, by God. From the beginning, they have and had surrendered themselves to Him.

How about us, humans? Can we surrender ourselves to God in the same way? I don’t think so. Our God’s sight (self-consciousness) has tremendous contributions in one way or another. I don’t think we should go back to the animal-like, primitive unconscious acceptance of fate. We can’t and shouldn’t go back to the state of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Nevertheless, the surrender to God is what we should seek after in the realization of our partiality. At least, in the moment of our own death, we know what this surrender means. In it, all existential questions and struggles vanish. We don’t ask ourselves anymore if it is beautiful or cruel, and yet so peaceful.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12

Image by klimkin

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