Captivity, and Spiritual Freedom
By Allen and Linda Anderson
An article in the September
14, 2002 issue of the New York Times by Felicia R. Lee, "Shaping
Nature's Unnatural Homes," posed some interesting questions.
Carr wrote, "The now-familiar debate about zoos--from their
design to the rationale for their very existence--is decades
old. As many have observed, zoos are caught in an inherent contradiction:
visitors go to experience nature in unnatural places. To what
degree do zoos exist for the animals as opposed to the visitors?
Is there something fundamentally wrong about using any animal
for display and entertainment, or should zoos be seen as extensions
of conservation efforts, much-needed protectors of vulnerable
After reading this article,
we decided to pose the questions it raised to those who subscribe
to our online Angel Animals Network Day Brightener Newsletter.
We asked, "What do you think about zoos? Do you have a
story about an experience with an animal in a zoo?"
We received many letters from
people around the world. Most of our readers, being major animal
lovers, found zoos to be upsetting even though some expressed
appreciation for efforts to save dying species. But one letter
offered unique insight into how the physical body can be in
captivity, the emotions can be caged by fear, but the soul,
the spirit, always has the freedom to soar beyond limitations.
Making a Difference
J. Blair's letter offers an
example of how to make a difference for an animal in captivity.
"I've never liked zoos,
even as a small child. My father and I have a running debate
about zoos. He finds them a necessary part of animal conservation,
and I maintain that if people did not encroach on animal's spaces,
we would not need the zoos. The only reason I would go to a
zoo is when my love for the person wanting to go was greater
than my distaste.
"On one of these occasions
I found an amazing switch in my attitude. I stood in front of
the antelope exhibit and instead of feeling anger at their living
conditions; I felt a wave of love and compassion for the life
they are living as souls and spiritual beings. It was a magical
moment. Instantly my day brightened and I felt happy and excited
to see the animals and to be able to silently send them love.
"While at this zoo, I
wanted to see the silver-backed gorilla the most. When I arrived
at the outside viewing area, I could hear several groups of
people talking about how hard it was to see the gorilla. He
didn't like coming out.
"I walked around the enclosure
a few times, hoping to get a glimpse of him. I went to the inside
viewing area, and there he sat with his back to the window.
He was in a position that would cause us humans to feel teased
by what we could see yet have to leave, still hoping to see
more of him. I was awed by the gorilla's size and color. I knew
he could hear the loud talking of the people waiting for him
to turn around. I sensed that he was purposefully ignoring their
knocks on his window. The only control he had of his life was
whether he let people see him or not.
"I decided to talk calmly
to the gorilla in my mind. I told him I felt compassion for
his living circumstances. I wished him well. I told him I really
wished I could see his face but respected what he wanted to
do. I felt a flow of love for him. Then I left the building
to go stand at the wood rails outside his enclosure, wondering
what he felt about his life.
To my utter amazement the gorilla
came walking out to a space right in front of me and sat down.
We stared at each other for only a minute, but it felt like
forever. I felt a wave of incredible strength come from him.
His spirit was not diminished. I had a camera around my neck
and picked it up to photograph the moment. I wanted proof later
that I had experienced this. Before I could click, he walked
This happened four years ago,
yet I hold its memory in my heart as clearly as if I had the
photograph I tried to take. My anger won't change the fact that
we have zoos, but my love just might make a difference in an
Love Frees the Spirit
One day, Linda went to a zoo
in Canada and had her usual bout of sadness upon feeling empathy
for the animals in captivity. Some animals, not knowing anything
else, didn't seem as bothered as others. But one orangutan sat
in the center of a glassed-in cage. A group of about twenty
adults and children were gathered around, trying to get his
attention. Linda stood at the edges of this group near the glass.
She watched as the orangutan lowered his head and covered his
eyes with his hands. He looked so depressed.
Linda closed her eyes and silently
sang HU (pronounced like the word hue), an ancient love song
to God that animals seem to recognize and respond to. She kept
singing this song and filled herself with love for the orangutan.
When she opened her eyes, the crowd of people was staring at
her. She looked up and saw what had drawn their attention.
The depressed orangutan had
left his tree stump and come over to where Linda stood. He was
gazing at her with immense love in his big, brown, expressive
eyes. Linda smiled back at him. Then the orangutan leaned forward
and placed his lips on the other side of the glassed-in enclosure.
Linda reciprocated by kissing him back from the outside of the
glass. The crowd laughed and applauded, touched by this special
expression of love.
These two experiences demonstrate
the spiritual truth that all of us are in some form of captivity.
We have mental, emotional, and physical cages. But the animals
show us that love and love alone frees the spirit.
What would you like to do today
to express your love for an animal or human?