Yesterday I went for a walk at a park near my home. It’s quite a large park with wooded areas as well as a big meadow. As I was walking near the meadow, I saw a dead rabbit by the side of the walkway. I felt very sad, as I do when I see any dead animal. I wondered what happened to it, since even though the walkway is an old road, vehicles are not allowed on it now.
Then as I walked further I noticed a number of people with dogs, not all of them on leashes (even though they are supposed to be). I don’t know if a dog killed that rabbit, but that is what I imagined. I became incredibly anxious about the dogs that were not on leashes and hyper vigilant watching what they were up to. I couldn’t enjoy the meditative aspects of my walk because of this fear that one of those dogs was going to harm another animal.
I had a similar experience a few months ago at a different park that is down by the water. There were signs on the beach not to approach any baby seals that might be there. The mothers leave them there to rest and come back for them later, and if there are people around the baby the mother might abandon it. I was so anxious that this would happen that I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The reality is that my greater fear is that if I saw something like this happening (dogs chasing an animal or people approaching a baby seal) that I would not have the courage to stop it. I don’t trust myself to act authentically; to act from love rather than fear.
I have on occasion thought about people that hid Jews in their homes during WWII. We did the play The Diary of Anne Frank when I was in high school, so I thought about it quite a lot then. Would I be one of the people that turned my back on my lifelong friends and allowed them to go to the camps because I was a coward?
I hope not, but I fear it is so.
Most of my fear about this part of my character has shown up in recent years related to the welfare of animals as I just described. I have such a visceral response to their suffering and mistreatment. I have not yet run into a situation where my intervention is needed, thank goodness, but somehow I think that is coming so that I can get over this hump about whether I would act within my integrity or run away in fear. The idea terrifies me.
Here is my shadow, looking me full in the face. Will my fear of conflict, and possibly my own safety, stop me from doing the right thing for a helpless creature? How could I live with myself if I allowed that to happen?