What is your animal? This poses a question that is a much more difficult one perhaps than asking us what is our favourite animal. RSE, in conjunction with AnimalStone jewellery, is asking that question, and asking us thereby to reflect upon our relationships with animals in general and also specifically with a particular kind of animal.
The mission of AnimalStone is to create artwork that can be worn in recognition and honour of our relationships with animals. In view of this, RSE is pleased to announce its new partnership with AnimalStone Jewellery.
And we do think of animals from time to time in a more personal way, don’t we? We think, for example, of what kind of animal we would be if we were one. We think, perhaps, of the qualities that animals have and see ourselves resonate with them. The question is not simply what is our favourite animal, although that is, of course, to an extent implied. No, the question goes deeper. It asks what is the animal with which we personally resonate? It asks what is the animal that we share perhaps a personal history with? We might think of ourselves as a lone wolf, or a deer in the woods. We might think of ourselves as a hunter like a tiger.
The question is, in fact, an important one, and has received attention before. In his book, for example, How to Discover Your Personal Mission, psychologist, author and priest, John Monbourquette, employs this idea of identification and asks his reader to identify a symbol which represents who she or he would like to be in another life. In answer to this, the symbol chosen would often be that of an animal. (It might also be a mythical individual, or simply an object.) But it would seem people often think of animals as symbolic of themselves, or their schools, their sports teams, companies, even their countries. One might, for example, think of the owl as a personal symbol, and desire to be true to its qualities of wisdom, vision, patience and measured self-control. Or, to give another example, one might think of oneself as a beaver, an eager one perhaps, busy building a life, a family, a career, a business.
Or, in another perspective on our relationship with animals, might it be that we profoundly sympathise with a particular animal because of its environmental predicament? Might we feel an especial attraction to help the plight of the bee population, for example, knowing their situation and the key role they play in the generation of the foods that we so much enjoy?
What inspires us still more about our new partnership, is that AnimalStone is taking initiatives in this regard by arranging for part of the proceeds of the sale of their jewellery to be directed towards their partners who help with conservation and education efforts specific to the animal. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the Dar the Tiger charm, for example, go to the International Tiger Project. This is an active and ongoing initiative on their part.
An animal, of course, can take on a life of its own in our individual imagination, and even in our collective imagination. This is true quite simply and profoundly in the case of the horse. Indeed, the close association between the horse and humans, for example, is such that it would seem to give the horse an extremely special status. The horse is so intimately connected with human life, activity and welfare, in both the past and even still in the present, especially in certain locales, that its mythology and symbolism remain in our collective imaginations. It is in an important way part of how we existed in the world and remains true in a modern world.
When we think of the horse we might first think of its power, we think, for example, of how the power of our vehicles is measured in terms of the equivalent number of horses pulling together as a team. We might also think of their beauty, their elegance, their form.
The centrality of the horse to the human experience and condition allows us to reflect a little more still on some of the qualities and ideas that we freely associate with our equine partners. We think perhaps first of all of freedom. That central idea of freedom, which has underwritten our constitutional platforms and been defended at great cost in war, can so powerfully be portrayed in our minds with the mental vision of wild mustangs running free along a beach against the wind, the roar of the water not even loud enough to silence the sound of their hooves on the sand. This would seem to be freedom at its fullest expression.
We need only think, too, of the words of Helen Thompson, “In riding a horse, we borrow freedom.” In one perspective on these words, freedom is the possession of the horse, we borrow what the horse already possesses. In another perspective, it is by means of the horse that we pursue freedom. They have carried us to visit different landscapes and then back home safely again. They are our partners when we are travelling, they are part of our team that sets out into the landscape together. In the past, of course, horses have been at the heart of our ancestors ability to move and travel.
Freedom is, in a special way, the gift of the horse. Yet, there is more. They are, and have been, also our partners in the every day. They have enabled us to plow our fields and harvest them. Horses have hauled merchandise and supplies. They have hauled mail. They have helped to protect us.
Still, for an individual who, as a little girl or boy, rode when young, there may well be in the relationship with the animal an almost spiritual connection. The bond between rider and horse has drawn many attempts to try to describe it, but it would seem its true and full nature must be experienced to be completely understood. And even then, this would suppose unreasonably that one rider’s connection with a horse is the same in nature and extent as another. It would seem more likely that the relationship between an individual horse and rider is distinct, and that there are as many different kinds and manifestations of horse-rider relationships as there are horse and rider pairings.
Even now still, just at the barn, when we have replaced the horse with engines, maybe even especially when we are not quite ourselves, perhaps feeling a little low, our horse seems to know us and understand.
The human connection with animals is a central and crucial part of what it means to be human. We are not on this planet alone.