Cruelty to animals throws humanity off balance

Harmony is the world in balance. Harmony is all things ringing true together. According to the teachings of my people, it's the most difficult thing to achieve in life, either as an individual or as a collective.

Harmony is the world in balance. Harmony is all things ringing true together. According to the teachings of my people, it’s the most difficult thing to achieve in life, either as an individual or as a collective.

The Old Ones say that the pursuit of harmony is a life’s endeavour and that the journey, because of the intense struggle and pitfalls along the way, becomes a spiritual one. There are not many who chose to make it and it’s easy to see why.

To seek harmony is to seek truth. Truth seekers have always had a rough go of it in this world, mostly due to our human capacity for changing its definition every generation or so. When you look at the world as something to be solved, ordered, contained, the idea of truth becomes a shape shifter in order to accommodate new thinking. That’s just how it is.

But my people knew that there was one thing that could never change. They knew that there was energy and a spirit that brought all things together and held it there. It was a harmonic glue. A Great Spirit. A Great Mystery. They sought to honour that mystery by declining to explain it, rationalize it, or minimize

it to a comprehensible degree. It was far too big for that.

They found it on the land. They could feel it. They could intuit its presence in the overwhelming sense of spirit and energy moving in all things. If there were order to be found it existed in the invisible, in the all encompassing belief and faith that there was order. It just wasn’t necessary to see it. It just was. The essence of harmony, in the aboriginal ideal, comes from that level of belief.

So when the dog and I discovered deer carcasses strewn along the side of the timber road, I was deeply emotional. Hunters had gone there, shot deer and left their bodies behind. One pair, humped together with the sheet of plastic that had lined the box of the pickup truck, were simply beheaded and the rest of the bodies dumped there. Creatures had come, of course, coyotes, ravens, eagles, magpies, a bobcat and further up the road near yet another carcass, a juvenile cougar slunk off through the trees.

All told, within a week we’d seen half a dozen bodies all left in the same condition. There were legs cut off and thrown into the trees. Near the creek a head was tossed in the grass minus the antlers. The squawking of the ravens told me of other bodies further back in the trees. But this display was totally senseless.

The first emotion I had was anger, bitter and churning. This was dishonour at every level. For the animals, for the land, for other people who used that road and for the planet itself. There were empty coffee containers, beer cans, cigarette packages and rope strewn everywhere too. It was careless, thoughtless and crude. I stomped off down the hill to warn my neighbours of the proximity of the cougar.

The next thing I felt was shame. It’s hard to be a male when there’s evidence of others of your gender mistaking manliness for a can of Coors and a rifle. It’s tough to be a male when people shrug off such behaviour as simply ‘the boys being boys.’ Most importantly it’s shameful being a man when wasting and discarding so obviously replaces sharing and honouring in the male mindset.

Strangely enough, the next thing I felt was lonely. I go to the land for the experience of reconnection, for the ability to stand there and feel belonging, to feel connected to things I don’t wholly comprehend; for the spirit of the experience. When a life force is severed it affects everything else. I didn’t miss the deer. I missed the idea of them.

Then, in the end, I was sad. When I thought of the multitude of planetary woes that confront us these days, at our home reeling from the effects of our indifference, I could see that this display was the root of it all. This is why the Earth suffers – because the majority of us have forgotten the idea of harmony or never learned it in the first place.

We affect things. Every motion of our lives is energy moving and we are all energy so we are cause and affect at the same time. It was inconvenient to haul those deer out and deal with them efficiently and honorably. It was inconvenient to care and it strikes me that inconvenience is the imprint of our footprint as a species. It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that it’s terribly inconvenient to act differently. So the Earth suffers.

Harmony is all things ringing true together. Disharmony rings false if you listen.

Richard Wagamese is Ojibway and the author of Keeper’n Me. He won the Canadian Author’s Award for Dream Wheels and his new novel, Ragged Company, is out from Doubleday. He can be reached at

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