For many people, nowadays it feels like “knives out” is the new name of the game. Everybody seems to be on edge over one thing or another. In a world where “road rage” is all the rage, publicly expressing a personal opinion is just as likely to win you a round of applause as a punch in the nose. One side hates the other—and for the other side the feeling is entirely mutual.
This is not good.
In these divided times, we do well to heed the words of America’s prophet–poet, Walt Whitman:
I think I could turn and live with animals,
they are so placid and self-contain’d…
The more I looked, the more I saw. Countless times I saw it in Christian religious art, where the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are typically depicted, respectively, as a divine man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle. Clustered on the roof of the Croatian National State Archives building in Zagreb I noticed a parliament of Croatian owls, symbols of wisdom. And in Florence I met Il Porcellino (“the Piglet”), Baroque master Pietro Tacca’s popular boar fountain, sculpted in 1634 and situated now in the city’s Mercato Nuovo. Visitors traditionally put a coin into the boar’s jaws for good luck and then rub its snout to ensure a return to Florence. As a result, the snout always has a polished sheen, while the rest of its body remains a patinated brownish-green. (Of course, I rubbed its snout like there was no tomorrow!) Continue reading “Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 2)”
‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.’
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 32” (from Leaves of Grass)
As we enter this season of “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” it is worthwhile to be reminded that in this deeply conflicted world, while there may be many things that divide people—borders, currency, language, religion, politics—there are many more things that unite us in harmony. One of those unifying principles is our common relationship with animals: not merely as food or pets or helpmates, but in the simple awe and affection they have always inspired in the human psyche. It is a sentiment that stretches not only across great geographical distances but across the vast chasm of time itself.
The paparazzi have gone home, the red carpet has been rolled up, and the tuxes and gorgeous gowns have been stowed away till next year. Now that last Sunday’s Academy Awards extravaganza is over, we turn our attention to the films that really matter—the ones about the domesticated animals we share our lives with!
(Note: Countless wonderful films featuring animals have been made over the years. The following nominees and winners were selected in an entirely subjective manner involving no voting or independent tabulation whatsoever.)
At long last summer has arrived, July Fourth is just around the corner, and temps are rising to unbearable levels. Time to break out the bathing suits and beach towels! And don’t forget to pack a book or two…or seven. Herewith we present a full week’s worth of vacation reading for you fans of our furry friends (including dogs, cats, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and more) to enjoy while you soak up the sun.