Rescue is a calling, and like all callings, it is a burden. Accepting responsibility for a single animal in need is a burden, yes, but the deeper burden is just to recognize the responsibility we all have and most ignore: the responsibility for other creatures in the world in which we take part. The burden of a single creature is finite. The understanding of our place in the world is eternal.
For me, that awareness of responsibility comes from a sense of interconnectedness. I am not isolated from the suffering of a stray dog, injured songbird or helpless kitten. Humans, like all animals, have a capacity for cruelty and that capacity grows directly from an ability to isolate oneself from the suffering of another. I believe that the next step our species faces in our spiritual evolution is to overcome that protective barrier and embrace the truth that we are all connected. Advances in science helpfully nudge us toward that understanding. Nothing we do happens in a vacuum. In sub-atomic physics, scientists have discovered that the observer inevitably affects the result. The observer participates in the experiment. Likewise, the rescuer participates in the world, and just as surely does the one who passes by suffering and does nothing.
My instincts for rescue are strong, but they fight with other priorities and sometimes lose. Yet I think the spiritual basis for my impulse to rescue drives me less than the emotional one. That is this: I have always had a fascination with the idea of shelter, cover, sanctuary from the rain. I love the thought of being safe and warm on a cold and rainy night, and I love the feeling of animals gathered around me, sheltered from the elements. I don’t know how much the feral cat appreciates the chance to take shelter under our house, but I can imagine relief, a slowly growing sense of warmth, gratitude. I suppose it’s asking too much to think that a cat born wild has any sense of the divine, but it is gratifying to think that I am acting as an agent of that divine presence. Even it only means that we’ve taken out the screens to the crawl space. Even if it means she has no idea that someone has helped her. For if she had no idea that someone had helped her, her view of the world would be of a friendlier place, and that light techtonic movement of spirit is worth the effort.
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