Thursday, January 24, 2013

Other Nations


“The animal shall not be measured by man,” wrote naturalist Henry Beston. “In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of earth.”
Henry Beston (USA 1888-1968)
Painting by Bruno Liljefors (Swedish, 1860-1939) "Fox scouting at water's edge" (Spanande räv vid vattenbryn), 1915

17 comments:

Jessica Deering said...

I've never heard that explained so well, or so beautifully!

phiq said...

Fantastic quote. Deceptively rational.

Tom Hart said...

It is a beautiful quote. Personally, I can't quite agree that at least some animals aren't brethren. It probably depends on how strictly one defines that term.

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, exactly. I take the quote as a caution to our tendency to regard animals only in human terms, and instead to be reminded of their essential mystery, and their amazing endowments that we cannot understand.

And not just wild animals. Like how in the heck did that indoor cat, lost in Florida, find its way home across 200 miles?
http://mashable.com/2013/01/24/florida-cat-200-miles/

Rich said...

Liked that quote.
From a certain point of view, they are far superior to us, aren't they?

James Gurney said...

Rich, yes, that seems to be what science (and anecdotal observations) are telling us. Which makes Beston's statement in 1928 remarkably forward thinking.

Katherine said...

For my Postgrad year I explored the Jakob von Uexküll's ideas of other 'Umwelt' or other 'worlds' of animals - I used insects. Each creature's Umwelt is so different from each other's and also from our human world, because its based not only on different sensory input, but on different needs, priorities, and even sensations of time...

Craig Banholzer said...

Beautiful quotation, and right to the point. I'm reminded of my first college room mate, an aspiring environmentalist, who subscribed to the view that "Earth is an organism, and Humanity is a cancer." That was in 1979. Somewhere between '28 and '79, thinking got too caught up in some sticky issues of human self-flagellation, which, in my opinion, does neither humans nor animals any good.

Rich said...

"Earth is an organism, and Humanity is a cancer."
Wow! Never heard that before. That's drastic, probably too drastic. Unless the gospel of limitless economic growth should take over.

Janet Oliver said...

The "other nations" part is the best. Anyone looking for alternative universes need look no further than his own back yard. Or couch - which is where my dog likes to nap.

Marque Todd said...

Incredible quote - something to contemplate more deeply.

J.Z.TORRE said...

Thanks for that. For me, Benton has made one the most profound, mind-expanding and beautiful statements I have ever been lucky enough to read. That's art!

phiq said...

I've been thinking about this. What did he mean, "In a world... more complete than ours they move finished and complete"? Evolution doesn't really finish or complete anything, or am I missing something? Also, if animals are "gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear" then this statement necessarily goes the other way too, since human beings are evidently gifted with extensions and voices of our own, equally indecipherable to most, if not all, other creatures.

Roberto said...

@phiq- that explains my relationship w my cat;) -RQ

caynazzo said...

I read that quote as a challenge to our basic and understandable tendency to anthropomorphize other species.

"The animal shall not be measured by man," neither by nor held to human standards if we are to understand them at all.

caynazzo said...

I read that quote as a challenge to our basic and understandable tendency to anthropomorphize other species.

"The animal shall not be measured by man," neither by nor held to human standards if we are to understand them at all.

A.Decker said...

Hear! Hear!