I am currently reading John Berger's Why Look at Animals?, and each of the essays in it are tremendously thought-provoking. The first one, called "A Mouse Story", talks about a man's encounter with various mice that sneak into his kitchen to nibble on his bread. After using a humane trap to catch them, he releases them in a field near his home. The style is simple and it is largely written in the present tense. It is a quiet and intimate encounter with the animal world.
This reminded me of the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, such as "The Lion Cage", "The Panther" and "The Gazelle", which focus intensely on the perceived inner and outer world of the animals named, suggesting volumes about the relationship between humans and animals.
It strikes me how many poems and essays about animals are written in the present tense, as curiously intimate encounters and descriptions. Yet Berger's book, according to the cover notes of the Penguin edition, explores "how the ancient relationship between man and nature has been severed in the modern consumer age, with the animals that used to be at the centre of our existence now marginalized and reduced to spectacle".
I really want to think about how my love of animals helps balance my life. I need to spend more time relaxing with my dogs and walking with them, and I need to reflect more on the many ways they enrich my life. Also, I need to think about ways humans and animals can be brought together in ways that promote learning rather than exploitation.
MORE CREATIVE FUEL: Watch John Berger's influential Ways of Seeing series, as well as The Art of Looking. And read this Brain Pickings post that mentions John Berger and animals.