“I do not like the way they treat the stuffed animals”

The night before I finished off yesterday’s post, I had a dream. The fog was thick and heavy, my partner and I were stopping by the gas station before swinging back by the mall to pick up my mother. I recognize a woman in the gas station (she is a librarian in life, but in the dream she was making a little extra as a janitor). While we are talking, she points to a rack of barely sketched in stuffed Halloween animals and says, “I do not like the way they treat the stuffed animals.”

The dream had the weight of meaning, but I could make no sense of it. What did the stuffed animals represent? I turned it over in my mind, feeling discomfited, but eventually set it aside. While I was putting the finishing touches on the monkeysuit post, I got a wild hair to drop in an illustration of one of the primate astronauts. This is the first image I find:

A stuffed rhesus monkey displayed in the flight chair he was sent up into space in
Able, stuffed and locked into his flight chair

Because I’m so smart, I miss the point entirely. I get a little queasy looking at it, decide it isn’t quite the right mood I want for the post. The queasiness becomes bitterness, the bitterness turns into this inchoate anger. Sometime later, the words of the dream rise up in the back of my mind and the anger, the bitterness, the queasiness, coalesce into sadness.

Got it. I do not like how they treat the stuffed animals. These souls whose lives fall in the shadow of our race into space, stuffed and on display like nothing so much as a specimen. Able, yes, but also Abel, the brothers we children of Cain were willing to murder to be first. The funny thing about Ham is that there was a great hew and cry when they considered stuffing him and putting him on display. Not so his lesser brethren. (Ham, Abel, do you not hear the stories being told?)

The irony of it? They were first, before us and above us, much like Abel.

I have enough of a spiritualist bent that I thought, perhaps, this was a group of spirits to be given aid, helped. So I prayed, I divined, and got the big “fuck no.” I set back on my heels, considered, then asked if they were spirits to be worked with, “there you go, starting to get it.”

I’m not impermeable, just well-insulated.

So, I sat down and took a proper geomantic chart for these fellows so that I could understand what this gathering of spirits was about. I was expecting anger and frustration, something like Planet of the Apes played to Rage Against the Machine. What I got was something heart-breakingly compassionate, this chain of spirits that gathered around the animal downtrodden to bring them respite and release. More like Cocoon to Leonard Cohen. A far cry from erinyes, these angels of mercy.

In that unfolding chart, there was an uncomfortable answer to the “are these spirits that need my help?” that felt an awful lot like “haven’t your kind helped enough?” The implication was “sure, you can work with us, but this is our business, our spirits. Don’t get in our way.”

There is a firm rebuff of pity. Tenderness, yes, concern, yes, but pity? I can’t find it there. It brought home the undercurrent of pity to some of the work Kardec and his ilk inspired. It is painfully easy to start thinking of spirits in need of light as spirits that are pitiable, who need to be fixed and set on the right path, when the whole point of light is that it falls upon the wicked and the good alike.

That pity looms larger for me right now, I suspect all out of proportion so that I can see it more clearly. The faint whiff of immodesty involved in transforming middle-class tut-tutting of the lower-class peoples into a diligent concern for the ‘uplift’ of their spirits takes on the stench of hypocrisy. I’m not prone to pity, but I nonetheless have a reflex toward it. This interlude with Ham and the Forty has really challenged that reflex. Pity and cruelty start to look like two sides of a coin called disrespect, pity a kind of solace for the cruel.

So, yeah, schooled by chimp spirits. It’s an odd and humbling world. I’m going to thinking about this lesson for a while.

A Happy All’s Hallow Eve to You.

Look to the stars.

6 thoughts on ““I do not like the way they treat the stuffed animals”

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