Tuesday, 4 June 2013


I heard my first cuckoo of the year this morning.

Those birds have always bothered me.  It seems so very ugly that a bird should dupe a bird of another species, usually half its size, into rearing it as its own offspring.  When the price to be paid for this is the death of the entire natural brood of the foster parents, the whole things just seems so ghastly.

I have no problem with watching a documentary showing killer whales smashing seal pups to bits in some icey Atlantic breakers.  I have no problem with animals that are killers, doing their killing.  It is natural and there is even a beauty in it, especially if the killer is a graceful big cat or a spider.  It isn't cruel.  We make nature too anthropomorphic by using adjectives like cruel and merciless.  Nature simply is.  The natural world echoes the spiritual world by having a beauty that is bittersweet.

But there is nothing beautiful about a baby cuckoo.  To human eyes, all that can be seen are selfishness, greed and deceit.  But these characteristics are not there because the cuckoo is an animal and not a man.  The cuckoo can not sin.  The cuckoo hasn't had the life of grace breathed into it like man had when God first formed him out of the earth.  The cuckoo does not have free will to err from that which God created it to do.

Yet we are right to be repelled by selfishness, greed and deceit but must remember that they are in the corrupted hearts of men and not in nature.

I remember seeing a documentary about the bonobo apes and how they use sexual intercourse as a form of greeting, recreation, stress relief and appeasement.  The sexual activity is even with very young babies and is not restricted to members of the opposite sex.  It was to me, repellent.  Yet because of its perceived "innocence" and the low levels of aggression amongst these apes as opposed to those of other species, some people do not find their behaviour repellent and indeed argue that we should be more free with our own sexual intercourse as it would make us a more peaceful tribe.  I am as guilty as the supporters of bonobo culture for seeing their behaviour in human terms.

Personally, I have no desire to be like an ape.  A small amount of instantly forgettable fleshy titillation is all they are after.  Like badgers seeking out some over ripe sweetcorn.  There are other foods, there are other pleasurable activities for these animals.  They just seek out the ones that they have become accustomed to.

Humans are offered so much more; the permanent ecstasy of heaven in an eternity with God.  To get there we have been given  the Way of living which ought to make us feel revulsion at the thought of people behaving like cuckoos or bonobo apes, though not necessarily with the animals themselves.

Nature isn't there to show people how to behave.  We shouldn't admire animals that seem to show alturism, compassion, mutual cooperation and grief. Nor should we revile animals that show characteristics that would be unpleasant in a human.  Before the fall, Adam just named all the creatures and marvelled at them with their Creator for their own sake as part of His creation.  Adam knew he wasn't an animal.  This is something (post-fall) man seems to be forgetting.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Adam knew he wasn't an animal.

This is the key point in your post, I think.

"We" today want to either make humans equal with animals, or make animals equal with humans. In either case, it results in the degradation of the human person.

I think Jesus came not only to redeem us from sin, but to redeem our minds from ways of thinking that would deprive us of the Divine life. Without grace we tend downward.

By the way, I didn't know much of what you wrote about cuckoos, and I don't think I've ever seen one. I also didn't know about the sexual activity of bonobo apes. I tend to think their behavior is learned, and not natural even to them, a deviation that became a norm. Humans are headed in that direction...