Friday, February 16, 2007

Say Goodby to Harboy

A Native American view of nature and the nature of Heaven.

A typical question I have heard asked of Christian priests, religious and ministers is, “Will my dog go to Heaven.” When I hear of a minister somewhere that has told someone "no" it makes me very sad, but for more than one reason. First is the cruelty of any individual who does not understand the grieving process that someone goes through who loses a beloved animal companion.

The second is the self centered attitude that the answer reflects…

It is remarkable how western society has continually come to think of themselves as the king of the hill, the top of the heap, the masters of nature. I once listened to a lecture by a professor from MIT who said that he used to think he and his students where “part of the solution” until one day he realized that they were “part of the problem.” As I write this from the Midwest of the United States, we are butt deep in snow – a blizzard that many meteorologists attribute to global warming (the idea behind this is pollution thinning the ozone layer and allowing the Earth’s heat to escape), Whether you believe what is said about the effects of global warming or not, it doesn’t take a rocket scientists to see how we have all suffered because of our detrimental affect on nature. It is remarkable, for example, how we still depend on daily transportation fueled by black goop that is pulled out of the ground rather than cleaner alternatives.

And that brings me to the subject of dead parrots…

What has dead parrots got to do with the western view of mankind dominating nature? Plenty…bear with me a bit. I had a parrot named “Harboy” He was one ornery cuss. But he was also smart – very smart. As I am wont to say at times, smarter than some of the people I dated. He would talk to us, play games and when ever we left for anywhere he would say “Say goodbye to Harboy” Well one day Harboy died. I was hysterical with grief. For a birthday present that year I received a brand new baby parrot. I raised her from a bottle fed baby. Then when she was old enough to talk something remarkable happened. Despite the fact that we had never EVER mentioned Harboy the new bird began to have regular conversations with my dead parrot Harboy. Yes, that’s right – she sees dead parrots; or at least talks to them. Now at this point you may tell me I am nuts, or you may take my word for it. I guess it’s a bit like the song I hear over and over again at Christmas “Grandma got run over by a reindeer”

You may not believe in Santa, but as for grandpa we believe.

In other words, you may not believe that pets have souls, but I do believe – we are visited by one. But what has this got to do with mankind’s view of nature?


The same sort of mentality that refuses to believe that animals have souls is the same sort of mentality that thinks mankind is the top of the hill to dominate nature. Yet when I was taught by one of my elders, I was taught to see nature as an inverted pyramid, with mankind at the bottom and all of nature spread out above us. They are there for us to learn from and teach us. I could go on and on about lessons from nature, and perhaps at a later date I will. Do you think animals are just “dumb animals” and don’t have a soul? The bible, and Pope John Paul II disagree with you. Here is a wonderful passage I found on one web site”

In the beginning of our Scriptures, we see God creating 'every living creature' (Genesis 1:21, 24). The Hebrew words (transliterated) are 'chay' (living) and 'nephesh' (soul). 'Nephesh' is mentioned over 400 times in the Old Testament signifying soul. The words 'chay nephesh' are used from chapter one, verse 20, when the waters are filled with living creatures. The close translation from Hebrew is: 'And God said: Let the waters swarm [with] the swarmers [having] a soul of life …' and in the next verse: 'And God created the great sea animals, and all that creeps, [having] a living soul …' (The words in square brackets are not used in Hebrew, but are understood.) In verse 30, God provides food - purely vegetarian - to every living thing, in which, the Hebrew adds, '[is] a living soul'. There is a definite separation here between 'every green plant', which of course are living things, and every creature possessed of a 'living soul'. In chapter two, the second, and older Creation account, the first human being was created from dust, then God 'blew into his nostrils [the] breath of life and man became a living soul', a 'chay nephesh'. Here we have the real sense of 'nephesh', or soul, as a being animated by the breath of life. This reminds us of the glorious invocation of psalm 150, where 'everything that breathes' is to praise the Lord.

Pope John Paul II: 'animals possess a soul'

When Pope John Paul II declared in a public audience in 1990 that 'also the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren' some people must have thought this was a new teaching, unaware of the Holy Father's scholarly familiarity with the authentic Hebrew texts.


So to me, the proper question would not be “will my parrot go to Heaven?” but “When I go to Heaven will my parrot and his friends let me in?”

There has been more than once in my life when I have met people to whom the answer from my parrot would simply be:

“Say goodbye to Harboy”

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