The December 9, 2013 Time cover story – “America’s Pest Problem” – called for the mass extermination of wildlife. Apparently, wild animals are inconveniently in our way. This appallingly unconscious attitude suggests that, as pervasive as Seton’s influence is, that influence has not penetrated everywhere.

>By contrast, Aaron Stern, founder of the Academy for the Love of Learning, sent me a link to a documentary about a South African woman who has achieved a remarkable level of empathy for our wild brethren. The film shows her using a special talent to actually communicate with animals.

From the film promo:

“Synopsis: What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you?

Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals.”

Compare this to “The Wolf and the Primal Law” in Seton’s Great Historic Animals (1937). In this story, about the accidental betrayal of a wolf by a wolf lover, Seton resurrects his alter ego “Yan.” In earlier stories, he used Yan when writing about his own adventures and abilities. It seems that Yan, like Anna Breytenbach in 2012, can directly communicate with wild animals.

“He was intensely sensitive, and had the most amazing sympathy with animals – not only sympathy, but knowledge of, and an understanding that amounted to telepathy. I have seen him walk gently up to a wild deer feeding out in the open, a deer that would have fled at speed from any one else.”

Indignant at the brutality of a zoo keeper attempting to transfer a leopard from one cage to another, Yan literally steps in, assuring the keeper that “there is no danger.”

“He talked softly to the leopard for a minute…. Yan went in, softly crooning a little purring sound in which were often heard the words: ‘Now Pussy; now, Pussy! Fear not, we are friends; we are friends.

There is no reason to suppose that the leopard understood the words; but he got the friendly emanations. His hair no longer bristled; his growling ceased; his eyes were not now flowing; his long whit whiskers like antennae took in the kind vibrations. The look of anger died away; and gently talking, Yan reached out his wand and scratched the leopard on the head. Gradually, the spotted savage head went down, the creature leaned toward the boy, and a low, deep, catlike purring was heard. It grew louder; and Yan continued making medicine with his song, and nearer came, till his hand could touch and stroke the leopard’s head.” (pg. 121-122)

We can only hope that someday the lessons of Seton, Breytenbach, and others like them will overcome the reactionary thinking of those for whom the others beings with which we share this earth are perceived only as inconveniences.

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