Listen to the prologue: ‘The Last Island.’
Soon to be published by Betimes Books.
Do animals have souls?
Of course, this begs this question: do souls exist?
For the purposes of this post, let’s assume that they do — most of us having gleaned that information from our religious beliefs and texts.
So let’s take a look at those.
Of the six top organized religions by number of followers, three of them — Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism — believe in reincarnation, that is, a cycle of death and rebirth. This rebirth takes place in both humans and animals.
Hindus and Sikhs believe that both humans and animals have eternal souls that through this process of rebirth can be purified. Buddhists do not believe in eternal souls per se, but do believe that both human and animals have a Buddha-nature and therefore the possibility of becoming enlightened.
All three believe that reincarnation holds for both humans and animals and that all creatures are on the path to purification or enlightenment.
The other three religions, the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, are more nuanced in their approaches. But in their sacred writings all of them assert that animals praise and glorify God and that He watches over them. (See quotes below.) I’ll leave the question open as to whether the knowledge and ability to praise God is scriptural evidence of a soul, but the implication is unmistakably there.
Lastly, St Francis, easily the most popular Christian with those outside the religion, thought all creatures had souls – they were all in his ‘brotherhood’ – and he often preached to the birds. It stands to reason that he wouldn’t be preaching to them unless he had a reason to be.
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:28)
Each one (i.e. all beings) knows its own prayer and praise, and Allah knows well all that they do. (Quran 24:41)
Deer, camel, donkey, monkey, rats, creeping animals, birds and flies — one should consider them like one’s own children, and not differentiate between one’s children and these creatures. (Bhagavata Purana 7.14.9)
All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do? (Buddha)
Nature in species, kinds, colors. Nature in life forms. All nature is yours, Oh powerful Creator. You command it, observe it and pervade within it. (Guru Granth Sahib)
The beast of the field shall honor me. The wild beast of the field shall glorify me. (Isaiah 43:20)
The agent told me he was ‘astonished by the s—yness’ of a screenplay I wrote. So I entered it in a festival. It did well. Now, he told me I’d misunderstood. He loved it.
He asked me if I was going to the party at the festival. I said I didn’t know about the party. He said he’d put me on the list.
We did dinner first. The guests included a producer and his girlfriend: an exquisite actress recently divorced from a very rich man. A Svengali thing, I was told. He’d made her famous. She was suing him.
Dinner was fun. The agent was pleased with himself. He was pitching a reality series for the actress.
We proceeded to the party in different cars. Private house. I gave my name and ID at the door and was indeed on the list. I’d been worried. You often can’t take the agent at his word.
The Festival Party
The entrance is through a garage or basement. Dimly dark (or darkly dim). DJ.
Round pillars three feet high with smoke pouring out. Atop each pillar is a dancer. They are, if not actually naked, at least supposed to look that way. The smoke obscures.
Upstairs is quieter. People drinking and talking. I grab a drink and spot the agent. He’s in a small circle, talking to the actress and her producer boyfriend, among others.
I stroll over to find the conversation circle closed. (We’ve all been there.) I ease a gentle shoulder in, trying to make my presence known.
The Actress sees me. I smile, friendly-like.
Actress: What are you doing here? Get outa here!
The Agent wheels around. He sees me but says nothing.
David: Are you talking to me?
Actress: It’s a private party!
From the wings, a Large Man starts coming my way. Laker jersey. Biceps.
David: I was on the list.
I look at the Agent for corroboration but get nothing. If I’m not mistaken (and I’m not), he’s enjoying this. Partygoers take notice. They circle round, attracted to the spectacle that is me.
I wonder if the Agent set me up.
Actress: Get outa here!
David: It’s me. David. We just went to dinner together…
I feel the Large Man’s hand on my shoulder. I’m going to be thrown out of the party. The Actress squints, steps a little closer.
Actress: Oh, David! I didn’t recognize you in your glasses. Why didn’t you say something?
The Actress hugs me. She’s taller than I thought and smells like apples. The Large Man walks away, his ‘World Peace’ jersey disappearing within the partygoers.
Actress: I’m sorry, David. I have to be so careful these days.
She kisses me on the cheek and hooks an arm around me. The conversation picks up again. The crowd disperses.
Later, the Agent catches me alone. He’s got a smirk on his face.
Agent: You’re good.
David: At what?
Agent: Getting a kiss and a hug like that. The center of the party. You planned that whole thing out, didn’t you?
David: Are you kidding me? You think-
Agent: -You shrewd f—ing bastard. I’m going to give that s— screenplay of yours a big push when I get back.
The Agent did indeed push the script when he got back.
The Actress didn’t get the reality series but eventually got a hefty settlement from her former husband.
The Agent still thinks I planned it out.