When my daughter was about seven years old, I called her attention to a bee I noticed in front of our home. He wasn’t able to fly. I cautioned her that if she picked him up, as she wanted to, he might sting her—but she let him crawl onto her finger. She quickly became emotionally attached to him. The next day, we went to an outdoor children’s festival. For the better part of that day, she walked around with her little friend, whom she had named Houdini, on her index finger. Then he fell off her finger into the grass. We searched and searched, but we couldn’t find him.
How heartwarming it is to see a child with an animal—even one so seemingly inconsequential as crippled bee. This affection for our fellow travelers on this sphere diminishes over time. As we age and are socialized, we become desensitized bit by bit or, in the case of “food animals,” bite by bite.
My concern for creatures great and small derives more from a sense of justice and fairness than it does from sentimentality or attachment, but these qualities are not mutually exclusive. Intellect and emotion work in concert to shape how we regard others, whether like us or unlike us. When childhood’s innocent love of animals is left behind, we lose some of our humanity. Ironically, in our unconsidered exploitation of non-humans, we diminish a part of ourselves that we believe makes us special, and superior to them.
I dedicate this blog to the memory of that bee. My daughter was so sad when she lost him. We will never forget Houdini. He represents to me an open-heartedness I would like us to regain, together with a philosophical disposition toward selfless consideration of the will to live, and to avoid suffering, of all creatures.