totem lite

Marty is a penguin guy. For whatever reasons, they’re his animal, probably his favorite. People at large who know Marty would think of him if they ran across one of these, or these, or a neat movie like this or this.

This could be considered a whimsical sort of thing. Standard question for any kid, ‘what’s your favorite animal?’, and of course their answer might change from the first query to the next (or for that matter, one moment to the next:P). But it can also be something at least a little deeper. I’m not sure about other Native American peoples, but the one I’m part of, the Inupiat, and the ones whose region (The PNW) I grew up in, the Coast Salish, have Totems. In these cultures, animals have deep significance. They are part and parcel of the lore and other stories of these tribes, whose understanding of animals (and all other nature) includes something sacred.

I’m 100% non-religious, but I get and appreciate it for the stuff that has been good and important and interesting about it throughout humans’ history. Me, I think human spirituality needs to shed its old skin of religion and evolve into something greater, universal, simpler, that’s impossible to wield as a threat, that doesn’t involve a god or gods (who can be anthropomorphized to suit whatever party’s preferences), and that doesn’t impose a dogma or liturgy (in the stricter, commonly understood meaning of the word). It should be elegant and make eternal basic human sense, and fosterable by each individual into a rich sense of meaning for all life, their own life and that of others. The closest thing we have to that right now is Buddhism. It is singular among religions in that it is freeing, even ultimately of itself, encourages tricky and difficult questions, and fosters peace and grace.

But I digress. Animals.

My thing for animals is somewhere in between the standard-kid-question level of significance and the sacred-totem level. On a scale of the former to the latter, I’d say something like a 3.5 or 4. I think if you have an affinity for a certain animal, you might be able to ask yourself why that particular one charmed you or earned your attention, and possibly learn something about yourself with the answers. But maybe not… either way, and more importantly, I think you can just have it. It can be part of how you identify outwardly to some or other extent, like maybe it’s your avatar, or printed on your return-address stickers or you have stuff in your house with its image, whatever, and your peeps tend to know about it. Or maybe it’s just-you thing. But I say, keep it, its free. What’s your favorite animal? Why? I’m not asking you to answer here, but if you don’t already have a totem-lite animal, maybe find one, or ask someone who loves you what they think. Enjoy your animal. Whatever your spirituality, even if none much, maybe wrap it up a bit in who you are.

Mine’s the Orca.

Have a great rest of your Thursday! See you soon over at TSN.

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