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A song of dominion

'' . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.''

What if man's dominion over the Earth and its creatures doesn't mean free license to slaughter the mighty, gentle whales of the vast seas? What if it doesn't mean the inalienable right to club thousands of fur seals to death? And what if it doesn't mean the need to empty the Earth of its resources, and arms races, and cold wars?

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What if it doesn't mean raising chickens and veal calves and pigs in crowded, sunless pens their whole lives, and trussing dogs and muzzling them with tin cans while they await market? And what if it doesn't mean the right or even the need to pour billions and billions of tons of insecticides yearly upon the earth?

When a soft-eyed buck looks up at the hunter from where he lies on the hard, frozen ground beneath a fall barren apple tree, and when great whales, as mammoth and capable of destruction as they are, roll over to be scratched by divers and are subsequently slaughtered by others almost to extinction, one begins to doubt that this is what is meant by man's dominion.

The other night I was enchanted by a television interview with someone who works closely with animals. She said we need to learn to listen to our pets in order to understand what their needs are. I wondered then if we might take this a step further and apply it to all the creatures of the Earth and to the Earth itself. Could this be a reenactment of Androcles removing the thorn from the lion's paw?

Perhaps man's dominion has not truly been experienced yet? Perhaps we are only just now coming into it? Could it be that true dominion will arise out of our growing intimacy with, and sensitivity toward, all creation?

We may find that nature is constantly speaking to us in ways we are just beginning to hear and understand.

It is conceivable that out of a truer sense of what having dominion means man will find his own preservation, and that dominion will be expressed through the role of innocent observer, appreciator and preserver, rather than as an exploiter:

''Nature can only be conceived as existing to a universal and not to a particular end;'' Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. ''To a universe of ends, and not to one, - a work of ecstasy, . . . Nature seems further to reply, 'I have not yet arrived at any end. The gardener aims to produce a fine peach or pear, but my aim is the health of the whole tree, - root, stem, leaf, flower and seed, . . .' In short, the spirit of peculiarity of that impression Nature makes on us is this, that it does not exist to anyone or to any number of particular ends, but to numberless and endless benefits; that there is no private will, no rebel leaf or limb; . . . ''

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It would seem perhaps that it is in this way that man will move gently into his own unique role, into his position of stewardship. Even now it appears that we are being lead in this direction, and some are already discovering the great satisfaction of putting away their former perceptions and taking up the new. It is quite reasonable to consider the possibility that as man comes into true dominion, nature will yield up her treasures, her secrets and resources, willingly. Conversely, he may find that he will be able to lay aside all human strife in exchange.

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