Managing to Survive in a Human World
The suffering that chimpanzees have had to endure is absolutely appalling. Many, if not most, of the chimpanzees held in laboratories for decades exhibit symptoms reminiscent of the same emotional suffering that human prisoners of war and survivors of abuse experience—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The chimpanzees suffer through isolation, unrelenting high anxiety, panic attacks, crying and depression. Some chimpanzees rock all day and night, some self-mutilate, some leave their bodies because the torment is just too much to withstand and actually have nervous breakdowns. These chimpanzees sit and wait, day after day, year after year, for someone to listen and extend a helping hand.
“Compassion literally means to feel with, to suffer with. Everyone is capable of compassion, and yet everyone tends to avoid itbecause it’s uncomfortable. And the avoidance produces psychic numbing—resistance to experiencing our pain for the world and other beings.”
Opening our Hearts to Compassion
The suffering in this world is immense, and difficult to experience, human and animal alike. Many people unconsciously choose to close their eyes to the pain and torment that millions of animals endure on a daily basis. What does it take to unlock our hearts to recognize, and acknowledge, others pain?
Our own hearts must have the capacity to draw on empathy and compassion. When we are not able to feel empathy towards non-human animals, and also each other, we tend to lose our way. We are the sacred guardians of our earth, which means we have a responsibility to ensure that all the animals, and all of nature, have equal value to human life. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Waking up to the issues happens one individual at a time, one classroom at a time, one community at a time. Each one of us makes the difference. The only way to live our best humanity is to include every animal in the equation.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”