What Animals Tell Us

It all started with Tilda Swinton’s video of her adorable dogs, frolicking at the beach to the beat of a Baroque opera.  We got the idea to explore the way animals have come to our aid during the coronavirus, lifting our spirits, and helping us to reclaim some lost aspect of our lives. Dogs represent our extraversion and our will to engage, the part of us that’s been cooped up under shelter-in-place.  Our joy in other people is finally resurfacing, as we start greeting friends, family members, and holding our first small-scale gatherings.  This summer, we’ll be rejoining our packs and greeting one another with all the energy and enthusiasm of an unrestrained puppy.

This video went viral when it was first published on youtube in 2017  and has since become the GIF that keeps on giving, providing us with a portrait of  exuberance and unfettered social bonding.  According to Jung’s theory of temperaments,  extraverts are action-oriented, enthusiastic, friendly, outgoing, and energized by constant contact.  Give that part of you full rein as you watch Swinton’s pack of water spaniels at play.

Now, take a deep breath and show some love for your introvert.  This next clip will honor your feline philosopher—the catlike part of you that stands apart from the crowd and comments on people’s sometimes less-than-honorable intentions.  This is the part we’ve been living from since we began sheltering in place.  In the first days of the coronavirus, we had to be self-contained and self-sufficient.  What better guide to that than Henri, the existential cat?  

As Sartre said (or maybe it was Henri), “Hell is other people.” Yet no matter what the challenge,  the cat has the ability to triumph over fate. Its nine lives remind us of  two useful traits: cleverness and resilience.  You’ll want to keep this part of you handy, too, in the weeks ahead.

Finally, here’s a video for those times we just plain want to sing our hearts out and transcend our daily challenges.   ShakeUp Music  re-orchestrated Mozart’s aria from The Magic Flute (Papageno, Papagena), featuring our talented aviary friends.  Here you’ll  find the Eastern bluebird, barn owl, stork, pileated woodpecker, nightingale, canary, cuckoo, and a host of other notables in a full-throated aria, praising nature’s own cycles of renewal and regeneration.  This audiovisual twitter-storm is guaranteed to lift your spirits and make you feel profoundly grateful for the daily mating music in your city park or your own backyard.

Throughout history, birds have symbolized transcendence and divinity, freedom from materialism.  In fairy tales, they often help the heroine complete some impossible task or aid her in her quest for everlasting love.  You’ll hear all these themes in Mozart’s aria, transposed for the Natural World.

Dogs reflect our natural instinct for bonding, while cats reflect our interests in self-care and self-sufficiency.   Birds, on the other hand, represent our longing for transcendence—to just plain rise above it all—through unadulterated song.   These are the traits that we share with the community of life.  And we are drawing on them for inspiration and for guidance, as we make our home in a pandemic world.

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