Most people have reasons for everything we do. Insightful people usually know the reasons for their choices and their actions, others don't want to know. Animals make choices, the same as humans do but they make simpler choices, not our complex, convoluted, tangled ones. And they know why they are making those choices, perservation of self, sustanence, shelter, acceptence and companionship. Their choices are made to fulfill their needs, and so are ours. Except while our heiarchy of needs is basically the same, we somehow twist it thru lack of insight into something else, something less simple and more complex And that is why we blame. Blame is the human justification for not accepting responsibility for our own personal bad behavior or our poor choices. We can get away with being hurtful, unkind, rude, thoughtless, careless, neglectful or out and out cruel by simply convincing ourselves (or someone else) that it is not our fault, it is someone else or some other circumstance that is to blame. We are simply caught in the middle, innocently reacting to people or things beyond our control, and sometimes taking control to fix it from our perspetive of fear. Abused, neglected animals can twist, and view the world in a skewed way too, but animals in their simplicity and opportunistics tendencies are more likely to adjust their view once they experience a different perspective. Humans rarely really change, we just become more and more like ourselves because we self perpetuate our beliefs, our fears and our reactions. Humans sometimes actively choose to live in a vicious circle of unhappiness or anger and animals passively wait to find a way out. And the difference is in how we think. We all know about postive and negative thinking. It is in every high school psycholgy class, it is in every self help book ever written, and it is on TV via the OPRAH or Dr. Phil show every day.
I used to think that positive thinking occured because of a higher degree of intelligence, education, life experience or creativity. Which meant negative thinking was from a lack of the above. But when I look at history, I realize i am wrong. Look at Hilter, Sudam Hussien, and everyone's favorute, Bush, all massively successful, relatively intelligent destroyers but basically negative thinkers. I think negative thinking comes from fear. When a negatively thinking animal comes here, and we replace their fear with hope, they begin to think positively. And when they begin to think in positive terms their destructive or negative behaviors decrease or disappear.
Positive thinking humans and animals can still be hurt. Their hearts and bodies are just as soft and vulnerable as they were before, even when hiding behind those self erected barriers. Fear is invisble, and has no mass, it can slip thru walls and tiny little cracks and take over. Positive thinkers know that fear and pain are a part of life's journey, and they learn to walk on through, allowing their wounds to heal as they go. Negative thinkers stop dead in their tracks to tend their wounds, inflict wounds on others in retaliation, or pre-emptive offensive stategy and build the walls to try to protect themselves from further harm. They never even consider that they have just trapped their real enemy in with them.
Given enough time, patience and understanding, most animals learn more quickly than humans to leave the past behind and move forward into a happier place. It is not as simple as forgive and forget, because really, none of us ever do either, we just move on. And I think that is one of the most valuable lessons that we can learn from animals; how to let go of our inward and outwardly directed fears, anger, hurt and destroying type tendencies and open the gates of our self built protective walls, to find real hope and faith and goodness in tomorrow. We can make a positive and creative improvement in the world around us. All it takes is teaching ourselves to look on the bright side, provide positive help where and as we can, keep our eye on the happy bouncing ball and walk towards the light. That is what Ed is learning to do. Blind as he is, he can always find his happy, bouncing ball, (with a little help from his friends.)
I think monks and animals likely do have a lot in common in their approach to the world, Leila. They take their days, their hours, their minutes one at a time - a slow, steady pace dealing with whateveer has to be dealt with when it needs to be dealt with. Others of us are constantly rush, rush, rushing around and reacting to things - or even "borrowing trouble" from the future by worrying about what "might" or "might not" ever happen.
I've always been fascinated with "sunny" children - those who just seem to take things in stride, to be accepting and easy going. My child definitely was NOT like that....but my great niece and my ex's niece both are. Genetics? Parenting? Do humans and other species come prewired with temperment? And if so, can it change according to our life experiences? Can a negative thinker (human or canine) learn how to look at the world more positively - or might a positive thinker in a hostile environment eventually become negative?
I'm not sure where I would fit on the continuum of positive/negative thinkers, and though I actively try to be positive, sometimes it's a case of "I'm positive this is going to be a disaster!" At various points of my life I have been very negative and depressed, at other times very positive, optimistic, and content. For me, the difference comes with empowerment - when I feel empowered, that I am an agent of change and have the ability to determine the circumstances that will effect my life, I am optimistic. But when I have been disempowered, when another has control over my life, my work, my activities (through intimidation, threat of violence, or just the patriarchal and bureaucratic principles on which our society is run) then I am a negative thinker.
And that's where I see Saint's philosophy fitting in - we try to empower our Saints, to respect them and understand their needs rather than to control them. One could argue that we do control them because we decide which ones will go to the pond or will be in the kitchen, or will go to the vet.....but then we look at Francis or Ed or even the incorrigible Copper and see that no, we don't control them....they make decisions for themselves from among the options we provide, and they communicate those decisions to us. Empowerment, self-actualization, whatever one calls it, I think that's what contributes to positive thinking, it's part of what makes it posible to believe that good things will happen and to have flexibility and the power to change.