I was recently walking just after the sun had set, when I heard a noise behind me. I saw a cat running away from a coyote. Very quickly, the cat realized it could not run faster, and fell to its back attempting to scratch away the predator. I began running towards the coyote, in hopes of scaring it away from the cat, but before I could get very close the coyote snagged the cat in its mouth and darted away
I was horrified by what I had witnessed, if not a little traumatized as well.
Was there something else I could have or should have done to save this cat’s life? Although I felt a great sadness at what I had seen, I also had the thought, “well, I guess that’s nature.” The coyote did what coyotes do, only we rarely actually see in front of our eyes.
Civilization, in some sense, is humanity’s attempt to conquer nature, which is also one reason we have embarked upon the unwitting task of catastrophically destroying nature. Assuming the cat had an “owner,” there is likely a person somewhere who will miss the presence of the cat. They likely infused love towards this feline and might feel anger or negative feelings towards the coyote- the uncivilized.
This event made me consider how contrasted my ideals can seem to be sometimes with nature. My highest ideals are to live a life of love, compassion, freedom and service not only to humankind, but to life itself. Yet there is the fact of nature’s circle of life, in that everything survives by eating something else, which can seem counter to those ideals.
In striving for my highest ideals, am I also in some way denying the truth of how nature works? Is there a truth of how we can live that is higher than how animals live? Is that truth something which humanity may one day realize and actualize as a lifestyle?
I think this is one reason why it can well be said that one of our highest priorities, the most goodness we can possibly do, is simply to recognize ways we can reduce the harm we are committing in order to live. That ideal can feel a bit underwhelming. Rather than pursuing something with action, it is more of seeing how we can limit or reduce action.
Perhaps doing good in the world is less about what we do, but what we recognize we need to stop doing. Or actually, perhaps there is a balance to work out between those two. Yet both require tremendous awareness.