You May Already Be An Animist

Respect for Entity Rights runs deep

QUICK! Someone tosses a flower at you! You catch it! How do you hold it?

If we listen to the DeGrasse Tysons of the world, flowers are nothing more than an ordered arrangement of molecules acting as utilitarian reproductive organs, reflecting certain colors of light on the spectrum according to evolutionary eddies in order to maximize pollinator interaction. Any “beauty” is there, but is secondary and subjective, and the idea that flowers (or plants) have consciousness of any kind is scientifically unproven hogwash.

STILL! If someone tossed a flower at Richard Dawkins, in spite of the fact that he believes that plants are mere spirit-less “things,” I’d bet a fair amount of dollars that he’d catch it gently and hold it upright, flower at the top of the stem.

a female-presenting person blurred in background holds a white rose, clear in the foreground.

I mean, right? You don’t hold a flower “upside down,” do you? There’s no real good reason not to hold one upside down, roots up. You could argue that we do it because the flower is “pretty,” or because that’s “how they grow,” but once it’s been picked, these shouldn’t matter. Most of us would still go out of our way to hold the flower upright, making sure not to damage the petals.

When holding a living object, we inherently transcend the “thing-ness” of that object. We hold babies upright because we understand that holding a baby upside-down causes it discomfort, but (per Dawkins) plants have no nervous systems so they don’t “feel” discomfort. We instinctively hold plants like we do babies. Why is that?

When my son was five, he received, from his grandparents, a stuffed animal version of the reindeer “Sven,” from the Disney movie Frozen. Sven is a pretty cool character, as Disney characters go, and my son LOVED the guy. He carried it around everywhere.

Sven the Reindeer stuffy. A grey/brown reindeer animated-style, wearing a red and blue harness

Everywhere he went, people smiled and waved at Sven. “Hi, Sven!” “It’s Sven!” “How cool, Sven!”

And, as an extra kicker that parents will know well: if Sven is on the floor or the couch and I need to pick him up, I’ll be sure his head is up, feet are down. I’ve also counseled my son not to hold Sven “by the neck.”

Stuffed Sven has become a totem, due both to his connection to modern mythology (Disney, fortunately or unfortunately, counts), as well as to the fact that my son enspirited him. Thanks to the inherent tendency towards animism within humans, even representations of entities can be considered “persons” with an innate life force.

I could go on (how we treat houseplants, B.B. King’s guitar “Lucille,” the respect we give to our favorite baseball bat or garden tool), but for most people (not all, but most), this kind of inherent animism seems the rule instead of the exception.

ANTHROPOMORPHISM! will be shouted at me, to which I reply, YES, and THAT’S OKAY. Anthropomorphism can be harmful when we use it to judge other entities based on our own ethics/morals. However, when we use INFORMED ANTHROPOMORPHISM to extend “personhood” to plants, animals, totems, and other objects, we take better care of them.

The “reasonable” will demur for various reasons; the materialist set likely has “opinions” on why this point of view is incorrect or somehow delusional. However, I posit that the opposite is true: humans functioned fairly well with an animist worldview for hundreds of thousands of years, but materialist philosophy nearly has us extinct after only a couple of centuries.

Entities have Rights. Things that Seek transcend their “thing-ness.” Things that don’t Seek can be enspirited by those that do. There is no difference between You and Nature. And that’s OKAY.

Don’t deny your inner animist. EMBRACE it. You’ll have WAY more fun.

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