Bless the Animals

“Bless the Animals” service was presented by Rev. Fred L Hammond to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 18 July 2010  ©

Chalice Lighting written by Rev. Fred L Hammond: In the beginning there was a great fire that exploded in the heavens. From this fire all the universe was born; including the sun, the moon, and the earth.  And as the fire of the earth cooled, there came forth all sorts of life:  plants, birds, fish, and all sorts of animals.  Among them were dogs, cats, horses, and even people arose from the ashes of that great heavenly fire of long ago. We light this chalice this morning in honor of that great fire which declares us all part of the one.

Opening Words Lion of Judah written by Rev. Fred L Hammond

She sits on her haunches

surveying her terrain

The phoebe to her left

The phoebe to her right

The hawk that flies above

The rabbit that crosses

unaware.

She sees all

She is aware of all

Even me on the bench

Watching her watching me

****

“Bless the Animals”

Watching the bits and pieces of news regarding the impact of the oil blowout in the gulf has made me realize how very fragile and at the same time how very resilient life is on planet Earth.  The horrifying photos of oil drenched sea turtles, pelicans, gulls, and beaches have broken the hearts of many Americans and the international community as well.

As much as our sophisticated minds would like to separate us from this fact, we are very much connected to all of life that is found on this planet we call home.  In many ways we humans are very much like the invasive species that uproots, squeezes out the native species that lived in a specific region.  We are like the kudzu that has intertwined itself around and in between the natural landscape of trees and shrubs.  We are like the rabbit in Australia, with no known natural predator, reproducing at uncontrolled rates and destroying the resources for the native species of that sub-continent.

The lesson of the sea otter and its relationship with the sea urchin and the kelp forest is a relatively new awareness for humanity. However, we have not fully integrated it or to use a word borrowed from science fiction, we have not fully grokked this lesson into our way of being.  Grok is from Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Stranger in a Strange Land and a quote from the novel defines the word:  “Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.”

Humanity needs to grok its experience with the rest of the world’s creatures and vegetation, instead of seeing itself as separate from it.  We are not separate from nature; we are one and the same with nature. Just as birds build nests from the materials of nature, we too have built cities from the materials of nature.  The difference is that our nests impact and change forever the environment in which they are made.

The lack of awareness of the lesson of the sea otter has never been more vivid than in the Gulf of Mexico these past three months. Our disappearance as a species on this planet might not happen through a nuclear winter or through climate change, but rather through our arrogance to continue to believe that we can do whatever we want to the environment and suffer no impact from that damage.  In our arrogance we think, if it provides short term benefit then it must be good to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth as there are long term consequences that will impact the survival of humanity.

Our very being on this planet is supported by the myriad of species that live on this planet.  From the smallest microscopic virus and amoeba to the largest animal, the Blue Whale in the ocean, all creatures are linked together.  And the myriad of species of plants also supports life, not only for other plants but also for other creatures.  The Rain Forests of the Amazon have developed a complex interweaving of support for life there.  There are plants, insects, animals we have not even yet discovered because their homes are located in the high canopy of these trees.

And like the tapestry woven by the sea otter, kelp, and sea urchin, if we pull to remove one these threads, the whole of the tapestry will come undone.  And not only the tapestry but everything that uses the tapestry for its own support and survival will vanish.

This tapestry of life is interwoven into sustaining the life of this one planet.  We do not yet know fully what the long term impact of the oil blowout in the gulf will be.  We have speculations and those are not favorable.  Areas that teemed with shrimp, fish, dolphins, and whales may indeed become dead zones where nothing can live.  Will the disappearance of these areas result in the loss of the seabirds and sea turtles that rely on them for food?  Will the disappearance of sea birds result in the loss of mammals and reptiles who feed on their nesting sites?  The links in the chain may have been broken beyond repair in the gulf.  From today’s perspective we do not know what will be the full cost of life lost in the gulf.

So it becomes an important act for us to acknowledge the animals in our lives.  To honor the gifts they offer us.  From the songbirds that sing outside our windows regardless of the weather to the comfort we receive from our dogs and cats.  We are more connected to the life on this planet than we may consciously acknowledge.

The sea otters taught us that when we are in harmony with our environment, the sea of life is teeming with diversity.  Let us offer our thanks to the animals that help sustain the harmony of this planet.  Let us learn well the lessons that animals teach us, those animals we share our homes with and those who live afar.

I have spoken previously that to bless another is not simply to say a few words but rather it is an act of affirmation towards the betterment of the other. To bless another means to lift up and honor the value and worth of the other in such a way that all of our actions are towards insuring justice for the other. Therefore to bless the animals means to live life with integrity for all of our neighbors on this planet.  It means to make decisions with an awareness of how those decisions might impact the environment around us—not just in the short term during our life time but the long term. Our blessing the animals and the earth in which we all live is to make those decisions with the impact on the lives of those living seven generations from now in full awareness.

There is an old Mohawk a.k.a. Onkwehonwe legend that talks about a prophecy of the seventh generation. “According to the prophecy, after seven generations of living in close contact with the Europeans, the Onkwehonwe would see the day when the elm trees would die. The prophecy said that animals would be born strange and deformed, their limbs twisted out of shape. Huge stone monsters would tear open the face of the earth. The rivers would burn aflame. The air would burn the eyes of man. According to the prophecy of the Seventh Generation the Onkwehonwe would see the day when birds would fall from the sky, the fish would die in the water, and man would grow ashamed of the way that he had treated his mother and provider, the Earth.[1]”  The Onkwehonwe believe we are that seventh generation.  May we learn to bless the animals and the earth with our actions so seven generations from now; life on this planet will once again be whole and in harmony.  Blessed Be.

Extinguishing chalice words by Rev. Fred L Hammond: This chalice flame is extinguished but the light of love and compassion for all beings is just beginning to burn brighter within our hearts.


[1] As found at http://www.indianlegend.com/mohawk/mohawk_001.htm

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