Tag Archives: Spirituality

The Second [adjective][species] Poetry Collection

The moon hangs full and heavy over the clearing, and a bonfire crackles in the still night, sending up swirls of orange sparks as each log falls into ash and ember. Its smoke carries the fragrance of white sage and cedar, of sandalwood, of myrrh. Its light dances over the pattern of stripes, the white ruff, and at last the burning eyes, a wash of gold over emerald as the tigress’ gaze catches and holds.

Greetings, traveler, and welcome. You have the look of a seeker about you — how well I know that restless heart!

There are others of your kind here, ancient and modern, their songs dreaming, wondering, praising. Here, in their words, you might find a moment’s peace, or perhaps there will only be more questions. On a night like this, who can say? Those might be spirits gathered out there, beyond the reach of the flames — but then again, it may only be a trick of the light. That might be a drumbeat; it might be a heartbeat; it might only be your own.

The fire is lit. The smoke is rising. In the end, all questions become one:

Will you come and join the dance?

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Carroll Ballard’s Never Cry Wolf

This is my final article looking at the great animal films of Carroll Ballard. The other articles are on The Black Stallion (1979), Fly Away Home (1996) before, and Duma (2005).

It opened the way to an old—and very naïve—childhood fantasy of mine: to go off into the wilderness, and test myself against all the dangerous things lurking there. And to find that basic animal that I secretly hoped was hidden somewhere inside myself. I imagined, at that point, I’d become a new man, with a strength and courage I’d never known before.


Tyler is a nerdy biologist who has accepted an unusual task: spend 6 months, alone, in the Canadian arctic to observe the behaviour of local wolves. Never Cry Wolf follows Tyler from spring’s thaw to the first snowfalls of the coming winter. It’s a curious film: subtle, slow, and moving. It is also a masterpiece.

Day 1 of Tyler's journey

The story is of Tyler’s relationship with wolves. Over the course of six months, he starts as a detached scientific observer, and learns to embrace his inner wolf as time goes on. (The quote at the beginning of this article is from Tyler’s voiceover narration in the first few seconds of Never Cry Wolf.) This film is about the furry condition.

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Furry as an Alternative to Religion

Furries are a diverse bunch.

Our diversity means that we’re often excluded from the mainstream. This is particularly evident in our sexual preferences – only about a third of us identify as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘mostly heterosexual’ (Ref). Other traits displayed by some furries – gender dysmorphia, heavy internet usage, or even simple geekiness – can also play a part in our diversion from society’s definition of ‘normal’.

Not surprisingly, furries do not closely embrace religion, a societal construct that can embody and tacitly enforce the norms of the mainstream. A little more than 50% of furries are essentially areligious (Ref). This rate is about five times higher than for the wider American population (Ref).

Furry provides some of the benefits of religion – I identify two in this article, loosely defined as ‘spirituality’ and ‘community’ – that provide insight into how mainstream society might react to the challenges of our changing world. Furries embody some of the biggest challenges to religion in the twenty-first century: acceptance of diversity, the growing online world and, most importantly, the increasing rejection of religion altogether.

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Spiritual Animals

Spirituality is one of those slippery words that can be ridiculously hard to pin down.   I’ve found that you can usually tell when one of those is coming up by looking at the length of it’s Wikipedia article, as odd as that sounds.  If the article can basically get right to the point and then spends the rest of the time exploring fine details such as history, examples, and important figures, then the topic is not likely very complex to define.  If it wanders down a long path, peppered with links, is topped with a sidebar and tailed by a category box…well, needless to say that Spirituality‘s Wikipedia article is a prime example of a “difficult topic”.

It really seems to come down to the fact that spirituality means different things to different people, has to do with the search for meaning in things that we don’t understand and don’t seem to be explainable by science, and is self-referential: numinous things are spiritual, spirituality has to do with numinous things.  While my gut instinct tells me that the concept of a spiritual fur has been on the decline in recent years, I still see and hear mention of it quite frequently, in some form or another.  Us spiritual animals have rich histories to draw on, adopt, and appropriate, not to mention the ones we create for ourselves, and we seem to have done so with a will.

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