Monday, April 02, 2007

Feeling for the Bear

I was watching Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel last night. There was a scene of a male polar bear, desperate and starving, trying to kill a walrus to get a meal and survive. He lost the gamble. He was gored by a tusk and severely injured his left hind leg. The bear, cold and tired and likely in shock, dug a hole to lie down in and likely slept for the last time. He was dying, slow or fast, it was hard to tell. I hope the shock and the cold killed him quickly and he didn't suffer a lingering death. The whole scene was gut wrenching. At the intellectual level, I know that that bear is already dead. Between the time of filming and the time of airing, at least a year has gone by. But that realization doesn't eliminate the emotional impact from seeing an animal fight and lose its life starving and injured. My ex-wife would feel compassion for the prey. She hated it when the gazelle gets eaten by the cheetah. Most people cry for the prey, but few cry for the predator. The prey will usually die a quick and hopefully painless death. Few animals rip their prey to pieces, usually it's a quick snap of the neck or strangulation at least for most cats. But for the cat or wolf or polar bear, failure means starvation. Their deaths are not swift unless a fellow predator kills them. So it was gut wrenching to see that bear lay down and die. So much for being detached. It's easy to say that everything is a molecular dance and that the consciousness of the bear will go on, or some aspect of it will metaphysically and maybe physically speaking, but emotionally I can't help but feel for the bear's plight. What do you say? I know that I was manipulated by the show to feel compassion for the bear. It was a deliberate effort by the film makers, but that doesn't make it wrong. If I'd have been there, I'd have shot a damn walrus for the bear, maybe two to make sure he wouldn't starve. But I wasn't and he's dead now. He may have been so badly injured that he would have bled out any way. Maybe his death wasn't in vain though. Perhaps it was meant to be for just this purpose, to raise people's consciousness. If you think about it, what were the odds that the film crew would be in the exact spot to witness the bear's demise, or get such gut wrenching footage. But when all is said and done, I wish that bear would have lived to hunt the ice again.

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Animals can endure pain and suffering better than human beings. Maybe because they cannot rationalize it. Or try to get rid of it or push it away. They have to accept it. And at a certain point pain becomes ecstatic. Or the brain shuts it off. There is also a very thin dividing line between pain and pleasure. And when there is no discrimination involved, pain can be pleasurable.
This is what some forest monks claim, who have to endure pain like headache or toothache, when they don't get painstillers in the deep forest where they meditate.
This is one reason I am oppose to euthanasia on animals. I think animals can endure pain without suffering until the moment they die.
Human beings have to get rid of pain as soon as possible. Or otherwise they will not be able to function in society, where concentration and lots of energy is necessary in order to accomplish their task or to succeed.
 
To endure pain and suffering is transforming and liberating. However don't do it for the fun of it. Or to aggrandize oneself. When one had enough, one should be allowed to use painkillers.
 
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