A couple of days ago while I was out in the early morning, walking with my lovely
“Stabijtje”, Molly, I heard a gunshot. A whole host of rooks took to the air in fear
and dismay. I wondered if birds were the quarry, but worried, too, about the
hares, which are very common around us in the otherwise generally peaceful local
countryside. In England, hares are safe from March to September, during what is
known as the “closed season”. I don’t know what the law on such matters is in the
Netherlands but, knowing the care for wildlife by the Dutch, I guess there is
kindly respect for the need to protect these beautiful creatures at least during
the breeding and rearing season.
On the day of writing this letter, early this morning, again walking with Molly, I
was thrilled to watch three beautiful hares joyfully playing with full and clearly
sentient wonder and pleasure. They were enjoying each other, the sunshine, the
world and their place in it, and all the sensations of exuberant, ecstatic happiness.
Later on today, I had a visit from two other beautiful dogs, Katie and Peter, both
‘rescue dogs’ with whom Molly had the most amazing fun and glee and camaraderie.
These two experiences, watching the hares and joining in the fun with the doggies,
affected me greatly. I was overwhelmed by this thought: I have been so fortunate
to have had a fulfilled and comfortable life, filled most often by love and generous
portions of understanding, and, in all the animals that have crossed my path, I can
usually recognize, with little more than a glance, if a dog, especially, has been
either abused or nurtured. Humans have the propensity for such goodness, but
also for great cold-heartedness.
The tabloid press in the UK is known for its tear-jerking stories of cruelty
inflicted on animals where the mood is altered by an emotional and happy ending.
We know in our gut that animals often endure great cruelty in the same manner
that we feel pain, and our hearts melt into gratitude and relief when the tables
are turned. Media and populist rhetoric, however, have perverted the soul of much
of comfortable and economically prosperous society to be hardened against our
fellows in our global human society. The dehumanisation of ordinary suffering
people has become in many places, commonplace. The ability to recognise that
other people (as well as animals,) feel pain and deprivation in the same way that we
do has become critically diluted. I have been so fortunate to have had a fulfilled
and comfortable life: God grant me the grace to recognise all whom I experience
to be in deep and painful distress, or who, conversely, have been fortunate to have
been nurtured, and to interact with them in love, appropriately.
May our dear Lord open our eyes to the suffering of those whose feelings of
distress and pain are denigrated and dismissed, and open our hearts to offer love,
sympathy, empathy and solidarity.
God bless you all,