Restore the Leviathan!
Let me begin by saying that if you have reached this page in search of Satanic ritual, you've come to the wrong place. Try another link. If you've reached this page because you wish to better understand the Hebrew Bible, again, you should try another link. However, if you have reached this page because you wish to explore our relationship to the other creatures on the planet--you've come to the right place. Put your boots on, because it might get a little muddy in here!
A young Ziggy, full of himself.
NOW, let me begin by introducing you to a metaphor we'll use by the name of Ziggy. Ziggy is my (neutered) male cat. He came to us as a scraggly teenager with an abscessed tail, grubby fur and scratched up hide. I was not allowed to take him to the pound, so he became the King of His Jungle. He was the Top Predator in his zipcode, so far as he was concerned. Usually.
Imagine this young stud. Unlike the dog belonging to the kid next door, Ziggy is not a pack animal. He does not recognize me, my partner or any other human as the Alpha to whom he owes allegiance. If we should dare to trespass in his personal space to, say, give him some required medication, we must be prepared to face the power of his jaw, the claws which so easily shred our furless flesh and the writhing fury of the Beast. He is a small taste of the biblical Leviathan. A taste of the Wild.
Ziggy, however, has his own Leviathans--cars and larger predators. He has a healthy respect (based on previous experiences?) for those larger, more powerful beasts. Temporarily, he will cede his Top Predator status to small-you-don't-see-me-under-the-bed status. Shortly thereafter, balance will be restored to his universe, and he can go back to slinking like the panther he is in his heart.
I know you're wondering where I'm going with this.
First, some context. The most easily referenced Leviathan hails from the Book of Job in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Before we meet the Leviathan, however, we have to get the backstory. After all, you don't pull out a Leviathan for just
. So back in Chapter 32, after Job has been talking to some other dudes, we get this: "So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous
in his own eyes
." (emphasis mine.) Immediately thereafter, one of the men gives him a verbal beat-down for his lack of humility, among other things. And after that, (Chapter 38) the Lord himself steps in to not only put Job in his place, but to terrify him.
Quite a lot of verse in Job (Chapter 41, verses 1-34) is devoted to describing the beast in great visual detail, documenting the beast's power and impenetrability. But the verses that most interest me are these: (1) "Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord?" and (5) "Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on leash for your maidens?"
Job is getting schooled in the power of a predator. A predator who thinks Job is crunchy and good with ketchup.
Which brings us back to Ziggy, and a need for predators. Atheists, agnostics and other treasured readers, please bear with me here. Evidently, in this age-old story, it is important to the God of the Old Testament that mankind be able to feel less than omnipotent. If we take these Biblical stories as stories important to our health and welfare, and not just as scripts that were developed to enslave people to myth, then what is the purpose of mankind being made humble? Of having to recognize the limits of his power?
From an ecological standpoint, I think we are reaping the "benefits" of feeling that our power is limitless. Our skills and particularly our new technologies have taken the vast majority of us "out of context." We no longer walk miles to market, and when we do go for walks, the greatest danger we anticipate is another of our own species. We no longer walk through jungles or savannas, ever watchful for the hint of lashing tail or pair of eyes which would teach us the folly of trespassing on the Leviathan's territory. Out of the context of Wild Nature, we fail to consider it as systemically important to our own welfare--that the interactions of species and ecosystems might be not only important to each other, but to us. Somehow, it's easier to feel something is important when it is literally breathing down our necks.
Of all the travesties we have visited on the creatures of our planet, the most craven has been our decimation of the predators. We continue to put bounties on pelts and hides for little more reason than that the animals in question make us nervous (rattlesnake roundup, anyone?) or make us spend more time/money protecting our investments (ranchers).
Yes, predators have dangerous parts and appendages. They're supposed to. It's how they do their job. On occasion, they hurt or kill humans. They do far less harm than
do to humans.
So why do we eliminate our predators, our Leviathans? I'm not sure. For a culture that seems obsessed with horror films and extreme sports which are clearly designed to get the adrenaline running, we don't seem like cowards. But clearly, based on Job, we've been accused of this before. It seems that we like to be godlike in our control of creatures, and if we can't control them, we assassinate them.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "I don't hunt." (Though some of you reading this probably do!) We do react, though. And we're perfectly capable of trying to justify ourselves as Job did when we feel compelled to kill that spider or that snake.
I'm not proposing that you never clean out the cobwebs in the dining room. (Oh. You don't have those?) But perhaps when you are in the messier parts of your backyard, you can resist the temptation to eradicate that black widow that is really an awfully shy critter and highly unlikely to bite you or anyone else. And for goodness sake, when you encounter that black snake--let yourself get past that moment of adrenaline, and let him be. Some creatures aren't meant to be leashed.
Photo by Art G., Courtesy