does a bear think in the woods?
Sierra Club · 2/21/19
Sierra Club
5 reads
20 min read


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  • Pegeen - 5 days ago
    “...a bears’ landscape is a place inscribed with the etchings of society. That would make the woods something we might call a neighborhood rather than a mere habitat, it might prompt us to consider the residents as thinking, feeling individuals as opposed to mere creatures.”

    “...when considering animals and our ethical relations to them, it’s enough to know they suffer. Compassion isn’t contingent on intelligence.”

    I do feel it’s essential for me to be in nature - nothing makes me feel more in awe, more grateful, more connected. Sacred and Divine territory.
  • erica - 2 weeks ago
    Bill, thank you for sharing this article and writing this comment. What a delightful read. I feel warm and fuzzy. You found your spirit animal.

    It's crazy to think that animal intelligence and emotion were ever questioned. I look at my cat and just know he's a genius (...or at least that he thinks and feels).

    > Among the bedrock properties of our own minds—minds encompassing the capacities of thought and feeling that constitute intelligence—is that of self-awareness, a sense of one's self as distinct from others.
    Don't you feel even MORE brilliant in those moments where you DON'T see yourself as distinct from others?

    This article reminds me of a beautiful passage in Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison: "No, it was not language; it was what there was before language. Before things were written down. Language in the time when men and animals did talk to one another, when a man could sit down with an ape and the two converse; when a tiger and a man could share the same tree, and each understood the other; when men ran with wolves, not from or after them. And he was hearing it in the Blue Ridge Mountains under a sweet gum tree. And if they could talk to animals, and the animals could talk to them, what didn't they know about human beings? Or the earth itself, for that matter."
  • bill - 2 weeks ago
    I want to give this an 11. It’s my favorite thing I’ve read all week. I have so many things I want to say (the usual stuff: anti-academia [Kilham’s dyslexia was a blessing in disguise!], pro-vegetarianism and veganism, climate chaos, what it means to be fully human, my own personal experiences with bears and with squirrels and cats and birds and chickens, yadda yadda yadda) but beyond all of that I’m just so stoked on reading.

    Reading makes the world make sense to me. I keep having these experiences (usually early in the morning) that are practically psychedelic. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is related. Apparently (according to “Blood on the Foundation,” an essay in Solnit’s book Call Them By Their True Names, which I also read this morning) the “marauding band of horse thieves, trappers, and runaway sailors” who stole California from the Native nations “raised a flag with a bear so badly drawn that some of the Mexicans thought it was a pig. A better version remains on the California flag, though the subspecies of grizzly on it became extinct more than eighty years ago.”

    But this coincidental re-emergence of bears is about way more than just bears. It’s about an interrelatedness of all things that is usually not obvious. It has something to do with the disappearing saffron in Kashmir and the broken US healthcare system (other stuff I read up on this morning) and about how the act of reading is fundamentally changing who I am as a person. It keeps re-making me into something new, over and over again. It’s so beautiful it’s almost scary: the way that my humble life snaps together with the fullness of the universe like a little puzzle piece that means nothing and everything at the same time.

    I stood up and paced around, iPad in hand, during the segment with the bears and the touchscreens.

    Just as I believe in the power of reading to change people, to expand our consciousness and our souls, I believe in the power of reading to change the world. I often can’t believe that this is my work, using whatever tech is available to help promote the practice reading, a capability that separates us humans from animals and might be the thing that saves us all. It’s definitely the thing that we can use to make life more luminous, more fun, and to take a crack at understanding the greatest, craziest mysteries. For me, for now, there’s no other way to live.