We gain awareness of who we are and learn to know ourselves in the context of our relationships with others. For many of us, others include animals as well as people. Simply by being themselves, animals can be powerful agents of transformative change in human awareness and consciousness. As we experience our connections with animals and people at deeper levels, we also discover the deeper meaning of the word relationship. The term is symbolic; it represents the invisible connection that exists between two or more elements, of any kind. This connection is dynamic, fluid and independent of time and space. The connection of relationship is created whenever two or more elements are attracted to each other, creating a cohesive bond. This is how atoms create the molecules found in our solar system; specifically within the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms of earth. This is why humans are fundamentally in ‘relationship’ with everything! Our levels of awareness can change but not this ‘elemental fact’, whether we are conscious of it or not. In the case of the atoms that have come together to create humanity, comprised of individual human beings, we can understand why the quality of the relationships we have in our lives is so important. Relationships exist with people, animals, places and things, whether they are present physically OR mentally in our thoughts. This is why even sounds and colors have an effect on us; they affect us at an atomic level for they have their own ‘qualities’.
Humanity is part of the great evolutionary cycle of Life. The material world has evolved to a vast extent. This is clearly evident. What is not so clear is that without an equally developed sense of social and spiritual consciousness to guide or direct human activity in all areas of life, our species will not evolve to manifest the true potential and purpose of humanity. The youth of today have an important role to play in shaping the future. All adults have a responsibility to all children of the planet for they will build the world of the future. Every individual plays an important part in its creation, for better or worse, no matter what age.
At this time of great planetary change, any and all forms of education are playing a vital role in the shaping of tomorrow. Humanity is learning together but we need to pay much greater attention to what it is exactly that we are learning. How do the relationships we have, with people and animals, impact not only on how but also on what we learn. Modern systems of education rightly help prepare children to live in the material world, but many children of the world still do not receive a well-rounded, basic education. Individuals and groups around the world are working tirelessly to make improvements in this area. Still, there is urgent need for modern educational curriculums to prioritize and emphasize social and emotional competencies by incorporating and evaluating them within the context of existing subjects. We have the ability to include assessment of relationship, social skills and emotional regulation in the assessment of total competency within any given subject. Our educational systems hold the key to building the foundations upon which the elements of goodwill, inclusivity, kindness, generosity and good human relations will determine the quality of relationships that connect us as a global society. Movement in this direction has begun as parents and teachers, who have witnessed first hand the results of too much engagement with technology both in and out of school, are realizing the price being paid in areas of social and emotional development.
While the online world of cyberspace is a wonderful medium for social interaction, the world of virtual reality also has the potential to intensify experiences of separation, alienation and loneliness as much as it can help bring people closer together. It can give us a false or illusory sense of what is needed to create and sustain the deep and meaningful relationships that define what it is that makes us uniquely human. It is not the number of relationships we have but the quality of them that determines the overall quality of our lives. It is here that human-animal relationships are playing a pivotal role in helping humans become more aware of our innate connection to the natural world and to each other. The more we engage with machines, the more machine-like we become and the more disconnected we become from those aspects of ourselves that make us truly human. We have many characteristics in common with our animal kin. This is what the word kinship means: “a sharing of characteristics or origins”. The relationships we have with animals can remind us of what it means to be human. Animal beings can help us learn how to be better human beings.