Kapiti Island
New Zealand


Home of the
Motley Crew




“I get pretty cranky," says Ginger the Grumpy Cat, "and it shows, when people describe The Motley Crew as,
‘Animals behaving like people."
Our Storyteller says "Oh dear, how sad.
Never mind.
You reckon!
I’m sorry, but I do not have an answer, and certainly don’t have ‘the answer’ to the following comment, and questions raised by a friend."

“Part of your message is that all life is sacred and deserving honour & respect. Moreover, you are saying that the distinction many people make between humans and the rest of life - is not how it is. Mankind does not stand apart from the rest of creation, and pushing the ‘difference’ equals a dishonouring of the earth. There is almost nothing that supports this - your message. Aspects of the manuscript undermine & contradict it, for example the massacre of rats & stoats. Thus questions arise. Are some animals more valuable than others? Do some animals have a more meaningful life? Have even rats & stoats some worth?  So I question the anonymous ‘badieness’ of the rats & stoats in Te Motu. You’d better look at the level of consciousness and the inconsistencies of the animal characters. The Motley Crew animals are ‘behaving like humans.’ Unless you solve this problem in a satisfactory way, then the book has no value.”

Ok, I’ve been honest and acknowledged I don’t have an answer, although we will see some constructive ‘thoughts along the way,’ as the Motley Crew adventures unfold. Interestingly enough, it appears His Holiness; Tenzin Gyatsu the 14th Dalai Lama does not have ‘the answer’ either. (Frankly, I do not believe any animal could ever behave as ‘diabolically,’ as sections of mankind, and of course by implication ‘all of us,’ if we do nothing about it).

On page 38 of ‘Train Your Mind Change Your Brain’, 'How a new science reveals our extraordinary potential to transform ourselves’. ‘A groundbreaking collaboration between neuroscience and Buddhism.’ Read about ‘The Silver Spring Monkeys.’ Believed to be one of the significant catalysts, empowering the ‘Animal-Rights’ movement in the USA. You may check the Silver Spring Monkeys on Wikipedia, & through many other resources.

In ‘An Animal-Rights Interlude’ from pages 59 & 60 of ‘Train Your Mind Change Your Brain’ by Sharon Begley.  Ballantine Books. New York. Copyright 2007 by ‘Mind and Life Institute.’

“For a tradition that teaches the primacy of compassion, experiments on animals are problematic. Buddhism teaches that the ultimate aspiration is that “all sentient beings be free from suffering.” Yet biology has a long track record of falling far short of that. Could the Buddhists condone the use of animals in research when, in the end, they were killed so scientists could examine their brains? Asked how scientists can justify such studies, the Dalai Lama looked straight ahead for several seconds, as he often does while composing thoughts in English. “Treat them respectfully, do not exploit them,” he began. “In the immediate term, you may loose something, but, long run, you gain much benefit.

“From the Buddhist viewpoint, the moral question of such kind of sacrifice of animals for the benefit of human welfare is complicated. If the human being for whose welfare the animal is sacrificed, as a result of the benefit that was derived from this, leads a more constructive life, then perhaps there is some justification. But if the human beings who benefit from such results then lead a life that is not constructive, but is destructive, then it has an added difficulty. Now I can give you an example, I think. A Buddhist facing starvation. Some fish are there. He thinks, do I take the life of the fish & survive? If yes, then the rest of your life, devote some sort of beneficial work to others, to pay for that fish. Then the sacrifice of the fish helped one human to survive, and that human life is now really useful, beneficial to larger set of human beings. Then I think there may be some moral justification. But if you lead your life in more negative way, then better to die, instead of taking the fish.

'In the case of scientists, if as a result of experiments the scientists have done and of what the scientists have gained in knowledge, a much larger community of human beings will benefit, in that case there is a beneficial element to this work. To carry out experiments on animals with sincere motivation, and with this sense of compassion, and taking full care, of the animals, this has moral justification.' Now that so many of the results of basic biological research have been shown to apply to people, the Dalai Lama suggested, “Time has come now to say to small animal, gratitude and thank you. Goodbye. Not much disturbance. Give them a break. Of course to us, useful but very sad this happen. We have no special right to experiment on them.  If we had no bad feeling at all, then might come to think, yes, it is worthwhile to manipulate some useless human being. And eventually not only useless human being, but most intelligent human being.”

His Holiness’s answers sum to:

  1. Situation ethics and,
  2. The end justifies the means.

prayer wheel

No I haven’t asked His Holiness to comment but perhaps he will…
I’m sure someone will bring this to his attention.
Let me say of The Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism.
In the mid 50’s I read ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ by Heinrich Harrer.
Since that time I’ve maintained an interest in Tibet and Buddhism. I’ve read widely and among purchases I’ve a Tibetan bell, cymbals, prayer wheel and Tibetan flags, which travel with me and I use them.

In the Stupa (a peace & prayer tower, connecting these things to the universe. It is said, a Stupa represents the Buddha’s’ enlightened mind) at the Jam Tse Dhargyey Ling, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation and Teaching Centre, 159 Parakiore Rd, Kamo, Whangarei, Aotearoa New Zealand… are copies of the synopsis for the 5 books chronicling, ‘The Amazing Adventures of the Motley Crew,’ plus the introduction, blurb & dedication.

On my first big OE in Europe and Thailand in 2001, I lit candles in many village churches, Duomo, cathedrals and temples. This helps me hold in the gentle candlelight those I love. My family and all our animal companions, friends and indeed people I have difficulty with. I pray for the Dalai Lama, the people of Tibet and all who work to make this world a better place. I have heard His Holiness speak on compassion and here’s a fact. He touched me as he exited from his address in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. With this touch I understood completely how a woman might touch the hem of Jesus’ garment and be healed of her affliction.
There’s a lot more I’d like to share, and perhaps it will come in time.

Meantime, ‘Go in peace and may the god of peace go with you.’ Ma te atua i manaaki i a Koutou.’

Here’s another thought…

In Forest & Bird # 325 August 2007 Neville Peat reports in “The People’s Bird,” on a popular movement to “Save the Kiwi.” “So what motivated this community-led movement in aid of kiwi - a key year was 1996, when a landmark study of kiwi predation confirmed the introduced stoat as kiwi enemy number one. The study… concluded that stoats were decimating chicks and juveniles and the biggest single threat to the survival of kiwi in the wild.”

Here’s one more thought…

In Ben Okri’s “Starbook” (2007 Rider/Random House) the maiden’s father knows he must make his daughter disappear from the tribe…
“But he was a man of mysteries, who never acted without listening to the invisible oracles, without listening to hidden masters of the tribes, without consulting the ancestors, he set about the rituals by which things unknown are revealed in hints and messages, signs that manifest in the world and are interpreted by the master-readers of revelations. From the ancestors he received signs that things must decompose if they are to give birth to immortal fruits of time. From the hidden masters of the tribe he learnt that evil must triumph for a season if an even greater good that will change the world is to come into being; that good, in all its gentleness, needs its true character and resolve tested, primed, and strengthened by the suffering brought on by evil; only then will good have the moral force, and the great integrity, and the deep certainty, and the boundless power to step forth and overcome evil and transform the world into the reality of a higher vision.”

Last (for the meantime) but not least…

Forest & Bird # 325 August 2007. Ann Graeme writes in ‘The trouble with deer,’ page 38. “All pests are victims – victims of our stupidity in introducing them to an environment where they will be endlessly ‘persecuted’. But persecute them we must if we are to enable our native plants and animals to survive…”

dead sea scrolls

From Rob Brezsny’s Pronoia Resources… STORYTELLING THE RE-CREATION OF THE WORLD: WHY THE WORLD DOESN'T END. The books and workshops of Michael Meade.

"The world cannot end unless it runs out of stories; for more than a literal planet, the world is an eternal drama, a story told from beginning to end, and end to beginning, again and again.
"When 'The End' seems near, it's the mythic sense, the eternal roots, and creative imagination that are missing. Behind the 'ecological crisis' and the 'war of terror,' there lies a crisis of meaning and a loss of the sense of the sacred in the immediate pulse of the world. The blind exploitation of the earth follows upon lost connections to the realm of nature, as if humanity has broken a secret bond with Great Nature and become estranged from 'inner nature' as well. "The problem isn't that the world might end completely; rather, the issue is how to act when it seems that way. What's missing is the imagination necessary to hold end and beginning together. "In critical times, how people imagine the world becomes more important; how people imagine humanity becomes of the utmost importance. Increasingly the issue becomes living an authentic life and lending one's true nature to the drama of existence -- to become a wick burning with the flame of one's life-long story."

Note: For more of Rob go to his web site (listed at the end of the book, Te Motu) where he says, "I endorse this because I like it, this isn't an advertisement, and I get no kickbacks."

John Gray “Straw Dogs”
P4. Section 1 ‘The Human.’ In chapter 1 ‘Science versus Humanism’… In the world shown us by Darwin, there is nothing that can be called progress. To anyone reared on humanist hopes this is intolerable. As a result, Darwin’s teaching has been stood on its head, and Christianity’s cardinal error – that humans are different from all other animals – has been given a new lease of life.
p41. Section 2. ‘The Deception.’ In chapter 2 ‘Schopenhauer’s Crux‘… The thinkers of the Enlightenment aimed to replace traditional religion by faith in humanity. But the upshot of Schopenhauer’s criticism of Kant is that the enlightenment was only a secular version of Christianity’s central mistake.

For Christians, humans are created by God and possess free will, for humanists they are self-determining beings. Either way, they are quite different from all the other animals. In contrast, for Schopenhauer we are at one with other animals in our innermost essence. We think we are separated from other humans and even more from other animals by the fact that we are distinct individuals. But that individuality is an illusion. Like other animals we are an embodiment of universal Will, the struggling, suffering energy that animates everything in the world….
p42 ‘Accepting the arguments of Hume and Kant that the world is unknowable, Schopenhauer concluded that both the world and the individual subject that imagines it knows it as maya, dream-like constructions with no basis in reality…p43… goes on to say that the Vedanta and Buddhism, which despite their differences share the central insight that individual selfhood is an illusion.

p110. Section 3 ‘The Vices of Morality.’ In chapter 14 ‘Animal Virtues’ … If we seek the origins of ethics, look to the lives of other animals. The roots of ethics are in the animal virtues. Humans cannot live well without virtues they share with their animal kin.
This is not a new idea. Two and a half thousand years ago, Aristotle observed the similarities between humans and dolphins. Like humans dolphins act purposefully to achieve the goods things of life, they take pleasure in exercising their powers and skills, and they display qualities such as curiosity and bravery. Humans are not alone in having an ethical life. In thinking this way, Aristotle was at one with Nietzsche, who wrote:

“The beginnings of justice, as of prudence, moderation, bravery – in short, of all that we designate as the Socratic virtues – are animal: a consequence of that drive which teaches us to seek food and elude enemies. Now if we consider that even the highest human being has only become more elevated and subtle in the nature of his food and in his conception of what is inimical to him, it is not improper to describe the entire phenomenon of morality as animal.”

The dominant western view is different. It teaches that humans are unlike other animals, which simply respond to the situations in which they find themselves. We can scrutinise our motives and impulses; we can know why we act as we do. By becoming ever more self-aware, we can approach a point at which our actions are the result of our choices. When we are fully conscious, anything we do will be done for reasons we can know. At that point, we will be authors of our own lives.

This may seem fantastical, and so it is. Yet it is what we are taught by Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato, Descartes, Spinoza and Marx. For all of them, consciousness is our very essence, and the good life means living as a fully, autonomous individual.

The fact that we are not autonomous subjects deals a deathblow to morality – but it is the only possible ground of ethics…
p115… the idea that freedom means becoming like a wild animal or machine is offensive to Western religious and humanist prejudices, but it is consistent with the most advanced scientific knowledge. A.C. Graham explains:

“Taoism coincides with the scientific worldview at just those points where the later most disturbs westerners rooted in the Christian tradition – the littleness of man in a vast universe; the inhuman Tao which all things follow, without purpose and indifferent to human needs; the transience of life, the impossibility of knowing what comes after death; unending change in which the possibility of progress is not even conceived; the relativity of values; a fatalism very close to determinism; even a suggestion that the human organism operates like a machine.”

Autonomy means acting on reasons I have consciously chosen; but the lesson of cognitive science is that there is no self to do the choosing. We are far more like machines and wild animals than we imagine…p149 Section 4 ‘The Unsaved.’ From chapter 15 ‘The Mirror of Solitude,’ come these ‘sound bites!’ E. O. Wilson has written: ‘… the next century will see the closing of the Cenozoic Era (the Age of Mammals) and a new one characterized not by new life forms but by biological impoverishment. It might appropriately be called the “Eremozoic Era”, the age of loneliness.’

Humanity could soon find itself alone, in an empty world… the prosthetic world that humans are creating for themselves will be destroyed, long before it is completed, by the side effects of human activity – war, pollution or disease. If the present wave of mass extinctions is followed by an Era of Solitude, it will surely be full of mystics. A destitute world will be the site of a revival of piety. Like prayerful astronauts, its inhabitants will look to the heavens for sustenance – and they will not be disappointed. What could be more natural for a species that has exterminated its animal kin that to look into a mirror and find that it is not alone?

… Anyone who truly wants to escape human solipsism (the view that the self is the only knowable, or the only existent, thing.) should not seek out empty places. Instead of fleeing to the desert, where they will be thrown back into their own thoughts, they will do better to seek the company of other animals. A zoo is a better widow from which to look out of the human world than a monastery.

p151 Section 4 ‘The Unsaved.’ From chapter 16 ‘The Coast Opposite Humanity.’Nearly all Philosophies, most religions and much of science testify to a desperate, unwearying concern with the salvation of mankind. If we turn from solipsism, we will be less concerned with the fate of the human animal. Health and sanity do not lie in an introverted love of human things, but in turning to what Robinson Jeffers in his poem ‘Meditation on Saviors’ calls the coast opposite humanity’.

Homo sapiens is only one of many species, and not obviously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone the Earth will recover. Long after the last traces of the human animal have disappeared, many of the species it is bent on destroying will still be around, along with others that have yet to spring up. The earth will forget mankind. The play of life will go on.’

Here’s what we’re up against. (Just to interpolate a continuation of this line of thought). A local newspaper The Kapiti Observer 25.10.2007 reported ‘Beagles test ‘abuse’ protest’. (It is interesting to note the word ‘abuse’ is in quotation marks)… Allen Goldenthal explained why he believed it was acceptable to use animals for drug testing. He said he was a ‘specist’, meaning while he liked animals, he did not rate them as highly as humans… Dr Goldenthal, a veterinarian and toxicologist had been experimenting on animals for 16 years…

I wonder if His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s thought found root here, and Mr Goldenthal exploits animals with some feeling, some care!
“Humanity more compassionate species and, particularly, humanity has a unique sort of intelligence, with potential for unlimited, constructive work,” continued the Dalai Lama. “So, therefore, from that viewpoint, yes, we have some justification to use another animal’s life, but while we are exploiting them, it must be with some feeling, some care.

Along this line of revelation lets continue in Section 5 ‘Non-Progress’ chapter 20 ‘The soul of the Machine’, p188. Everyone asks whether machines will someday be able to think as humans do. Few ask whether machines will ever think like cats or gorillas, dolphins or bats. Scientists searching for extra-terrestrial life ponder anxiously whether mankind is alone in the universe. They would be better occupied trying to communicate with the dwindling numbers of their animal kin. Descartes described animals as machines. The great cogitator would have been nearer the truth if he had described himself as a machine…For further revelation, seek out National Geographic, March 2008 for Animal Minds, a feature article by Virginia Morell.

Now on p189… As machines evolve, they will come – to use a way of speaking that long predates Christianity - to have souls; In the words of Santayana: ‘Spirit is itself not human; it may spring up in any life; it may detach itself from any provincialism; as it exists in all nations and religions, so it may exist in all animals, and who knows in many undreamt-of beings, and in the midst of what worlds?’
Throughout history and prehistory, animists have believed that matter is full of spirit. Why not welcome the living proof of this ancient faith?

Section 6 ‘As It Is.’ … should the truth about the world exist; it’s bound to be nonhuman. Joseph Brodsky. Chapter 1 ‘The Consolations of Action.’ In his novel Nostromo, Joseph Conrad wrote: ‘Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering illusions.’ ‘For those for whom life means action, the world is a stage on which to enact their dreams. Over the past few hundred years, religion has waned, but we have not become less obsessed with imprinting a human meaning on things. A thin secular idealism has become the dominant attitude to life. The world has come to be seen as something to remake in our own image. The idea that the aim of life is not action but contemplation has almost disappeared.’

By: Granta Publications, 2/3 Hanover Yard, Noel Road, London N1 8BE. 2002 John Gray. ‘This powerful and brilliant book challenges all our assumptions about what it is to be human.’ J. G. Ballard