What do Mickey Mouse, Ganesh, a leopard-skin pillbox hat, A Lion Called Christian, and the Aflac duck have in common? They all represent human beings’ deeply ingrained connection to the animal kingdom. In Being With Animals, anthropologist Barbara King unravels the complexity and enormous significance of this relationship.
Animals rule our existence. You can see this in the billions of dollars Americans pour out each year for their pets, in the success of books and films such as Marley and Me, in the names of athletic teams, in the stories that have entertained and instructed children (from The Cat in the Hat back to well before Aesop created his fables), in the animal deities that pervade the most ancient forms of religion (and which still appear in sublimated forms today), to the paintings on the cave walls of Lascaux. The omnipresence of animal beings in our lives–whether real or fictional–is something so enormous that people take often it for granted, never wondering why animals remain so much a part of human life. It has continuously maintained a powerful spiritual, transcendent quality over the tens of thousands of years that Homo sapiens have walked the earth. Why?
King looks at this phenomenon, from the most obvious animal connections in daily life and culture and over the whole of human history, to show the various roles animals have played in all civilizations. She ultimately digs deeply into the importance of the human-animal bond as key to our evolution, as a significant spiritual aspect of understanding what truly makes us human, and looks ahead to explore how our further technological development may, or may not, affect these important ties.
My name is Colleen and I love animals. You could almost say that my life revolves around them. When we bought our house a year and a half ago we didn’t really care about the flooring, or the wall color or the kitchen. We were looking to see if we could fit all of our bird and bunny cages into the space. And during renovations, 6 wild cats moved into our house. We now have 6 dogs, 12 cats, 2 bunnies and 6 birds. Most of them rescues. So I felt a deep connection to Barbara J. King and her book Being with Animals. A book all about our connection with animals? Yeah, I was all over that.
I found this book enjoyable. It took me a chapter or two to get into it, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. It’s cool that way, way, way back in time people loved and worshiped animals. I mean, I knew about Egypt and how cats were worshiped, but I didn’t realize that there were other cultures and even earlier time periods that had a special bond with animals.
I think the thing I found the most appealing was King’s obvious enthusiasm for the topic and her deep, deep love and appreciation of animals. For me, it made all the difference. There’s a lot of factual information in this book and it had the potential to come off textbooky and I think it would have been fairly dry if someone else had written it. But King puts in just the right amount of her own personality and experiences that the book is interesting to read.
I think that anyone that loves animals or is interested in our history with animals will enjoy Being with Animals.
Okay, I have one copy to give away to someone in the US or Canada. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me something animal-related. It can be how many animals you share your life with, your favorite TV or movie animals or the weirdest/coolest pet name. The contest will run until the end of the month and then I’ll randomly pick a winner. 🙂