Love for Animals: The Animal as an Object of Knowledge

dog

If you haven’t, try observing your beloved pet while keeping in mind the possible mystery of his behavior. Take careful note of the sweeping motion of the cat and dog’s tail, the manner in which they both present their head to be scratched, the attentiveness a dog gives when they “listen” to your words, how a dog rests that unusually heavy head on your lap, or the beautiful truth in how they never enjoy being away from you (dogs, that is). These, and so much more, display quite a marvelous mystery. But have we asked ourselves what the actions, and more importantly the personable companion, represent? I think this is the greatest mystery of all.

I’ve been going through some immensely challenging and difficult times lately, and I believe that the challenges have opened me up to the great mysteries of God. I have learned that through adversity, God furnishes us in high fire to work His glory in us. One defining feature of this is in the revelation of mystery; Paul, concerning himself and his fellow ministers, gives notice to others of how himself and others should be accounted: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We can assume we’re in a favorable place when mysteries have been entrusted to our care so that we may steward them. Such mysteries are found in the most unlikely of places–including the loving face of that furry creature that commits himself faithfully to your care.

What are these mysteries? Well, I can disclose to you a particularly marvelous mystery: the mystery of an animal as an object of knowledge.

The Book of Ecclesiastes speaks to the extraordinary development of man as an animal: “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless” (Ecc. 3:19). I would say furthermore that within this verse is the allowance of man to contrive deep, fathomable truths from animals, given that they clearly hold a special place amongst the wisdom tradition found herein. Even further, the Book of Proverbs relates the wisest of behavior and characteristics to animals: the writer gives introduction to the creatures by saying, “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise” (Prov. 30:24). We would do wise to unravel the mysteries of God’s creatures. Now that the reality of wisdom in animals has been established, then what more? What is the specific mystery I speak of?

Not only do I believe animals are persons (albeit not the same manner in which we might ascribe personhood to a human person) but I also believe that animals represent vast objects of knowledge that are pertinent to our lives as humans. These objects are pertinent to our lives as humans because they stand in place of figments of our imaginary life by displaying a natural reality. Our companions represent ideas–godlike impressions we hold dear–and give those ideas character, a loving face, and a sweet countenance of adoring admiration. It can be no little wonder that God, speaking to the caressing of those good godlike impressions, tells His people to be righteous in “caring for the needs of their animals” (Prov. 12:10). We fulfill a biblical obligation by holding our companions, that is, those objects of knowledge that are the manifestation of good ideas, in loving care. We are to fulfill biblical obligations.

So, what’s my story?

My German Shepherd, Dennis, represents the consolation of philosophy in my life, and all the actions associated with him speak directly to the dimensional relationship that philosophy has had in consoling myself through a difficult time: for, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our relationship transcends time, and moves into a category unique to us–it is the story of a man’s walk in faith through difficult and challenging times with a warm friend. There have been times where my bed was wet with tears; there have been times where despair wrenched my spirit and soul into marred submission; and there have been times where hope seemed too faint to recall. But, in my reason to believe and question my existence, I found solace–much like Solomon counted as worthy his questionable belief. But, these questions and reasons appeared manifested in my dear and warm friend; Dennis my compatriot of nighttime angst, and Dennis my arbiter of gloom: there be but only a paw-in-hand or a doleful look from him to inspire my spirits–much like reason provides. Can we recall our misery, and see not a friend around to console us? Well, my friends, look to your sweet, furry companions. Look to the objects of knowledge they represent.

When I think of my beloved companion, I’m led to the wonder in enjoyment of God. My friend, representing that desirous contentment found in the pursuit of wisdom, has been a dear friend. Surely when C.S. Lewis wrote that some of his best friends were books, he had in mind objects of knowledge, and likewise I say the fulfillment of that is in an animal, and the further fulfillment of that friend is in the best friend a man can have: Christ. Dennis has been an object of knowledge which has helped to, “direct me toward the discovery and enjoyment of the supreme good,” and, in part, has been “the object of desire capable of fulfilling perfectly the best of human aspirations” (xiv). Animals are more than what our unwitting minds may conceive of. They are treasured allies in a race toward the finish. They are man’s bubbly bristled bearer of sorrow. Yes, they are treasures, and where our treasures are, there our hearts are.

May I present a poem penned from my heart to you?
_________________________________________________________________

The Dog and Man

by Lance H. Gracy

The dog and man a peculiar bunch
God upholding tears
Man alone is not good, and such
A dog to share his cares

Gentle have I felt
And through the warmness of dreams I know
The transfer of knowledge through his pelt
The whispering eyes of wisdom shown

Many mysteries in wonder
The tale of a wagging tail
My friend in fits of soul asunder
My friend whom never fails

Stern leading is his joy
And his joy my pleasure
A soft touch, a sweet good boy
With love, my pal, a treasure

If he could speak my language
I know surely he would say
I have known love, yet dearly miss
Your presence every day

The dog and man a peculiar bunch
God upholding tears
Man alone is not good, and such
A dog to share his cares
_________________________________________________________________

What does your special animal mean to you? Which idea does he bear? What station in your life is he a representative of?

Seek the wonder of God, and discover the many mysteries that await.

All my love in Christ,

Lance H. Gracy

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