Sunday, June 22, 2008
Living Like A Herd
This past week has seen several twenty-hour days. Working to save the lives of a herd of horses forgotten back in the woods. Horses left to die without food or water. Living off of each other’s manure until somewhere, somehow, they would be given a chance to live. As a result, this past week, I have spent the majority of my time working and being amongst herds. Big herds and little herds. But always herds. Herds of horses and herds of humans. And as I sit here this Sunday morning, I am drawn to the direct similarities and wide differences between those two herds…
These horses that I’ve been spending my time with are a herd of “wild” horses. Untrained and unhandled horses that were left fenced in to fend for themselves. Horses that human hands have never touched. Horses never knowing the feel of a halter or the taste of grain. Living their lives out in the hills without the sight and sound of humans or traffic or anything other than themselves and the nature around them.
These "wild" horses, when approached by we humans that were now wandering in their living space, were curious, of all things. No striking or running away. No rearing or charging in an attempt to hurt us as we came near to them. Instead, they were calm under stress and faced us - the unknown - with open, honest curiosity. Many of us were moved to tears at their total calm and acceptance of us in to their world.
Throughout this entire time, this herd of wild horses remained a cohesive unit and moved, like fluid, together as one large body. Not one was left behind. Even the tiniest and the weakest were included and cared for in this herd of wild horses. The leading mare was followed and her instincts were trusted. She did her job exceptionally well. Being sharp when needed, strong when needed, coaxing when needed, but above all, being in front. She instilled a natural, calm, respectful order.
When we humans applied pressure to this herd, they responded quickly and communicated loudly and clearly to each other. Once again, all were included in this chatter and their movements, although quick and sharp, were still together. Survival was now their goal and they remained calm with new common goals now binding them even more tightly together. If one stumbled, there was no scolding or bad feelings. No, instead the herd would circle back to retrieve the one at risk – freely risking themselves to insure that not one single member of the herd was left behind.
Change was absorbed and again, they adapted quickly with communication and applying new skills to their new surroundings. They above all, remained calm and cohesive. Orderly and surprisingly, still curious. They never resorted to violence or striking out. No, instead they adapted and survived.
We humans are not naturally curious adults. We are curious as children, but somewhere along the line we learn to doubt and mistrust and the curiosity is set aside for judgment and criticism and skepticism. We set expectations and if another human does not meet our expectations we have disappointment and anger toward them. We humans tend to shun the human who fails to meet our expectations. Or we simply withdraw and withhold our communications and interactions with that failing human that we have no faith in any longer.
We humans tend to create societies inside of the big society, thereby leaving some behind or outside of our inner circle. We leave some behind simply because they don’t fit with us or have failed us in some way and so we no longer go back to retrieve them. We let them stay behind to fend for themselves. And in our mini-societies, we tend to tell our fellow humans what they “should do” or “need to do” or “ought not to do”. We tend to be experts on the actions of others without always considering the footprints of the others.
We humans also tend to not move like fluid. Instead we tend to fend for ourselves and forget the power of mass and the force of many. We see change and fail to communicate. Usually, we resist change and strike out either with words or that withdrawal mechanism again. Sadly, we humans tend to not meet change as a group with open communication and respect for our leader. Once again, we end up standing alone to face expectations with an already slow start because we are alone and without the support and protection of our herd.
I’ve spent time with an angry horse and a human filled with anger. The horse is calmed by my deep breathing and my remaining calm. My deep breathing does nothing to calm the human.
And we humans tend not to overextend ourselves to care for others. We tend to say you “must have some common sense about it” and we tend to leave some to die. Is it our faith that is weak? Or our conviction that is lacking? Or are we just too tired meeting all of those expectations set upon us? How can we turn our back on those who will suffer or die without us?
More than anything, I see we humans as an anxious lot. An unsatisfied lot. Not easy to please or easy to be or stay happy. We seem to want more than the sun on our shoulders and a decent meal with fresh water.
I have spent the majority of my time this past week working and being amongst herds. Herds of horses and herds of humans. As for myself, I choose to be more like the herd of wild horses that I have come to admire and respect. In this first meeting
of this wild herd of horses, I saw and learned from them absolutely everything I needed to know to survive as a Human Being. Staying calm in adversity. Curious rather than critical. Cohesive with the creatures placed in my path. Not leaving a single one behind. Communicating loudly and adapting as quickly as I possibly can. Having no expectations of my fellow humans. It is only in being like the wild herd, that I think I will find my contentment.
Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd