The Step-Out Moment

When ferocious animals become meek, they teach us a lesson on how animals and man can spiritually reconnect.


There’s a certain kind of interaction that happens, sometimes, between animals and people–or between animals and other animals. These interactions can happen regularly or only once, and can last for a long time or for just a few seconds. They’re moments when the people and animals involved (especially the animals) step out of their regular, natural roles, and into other, more mysterious ones.

Whenever or wherever these step-out moments occur, they tend to strike a curiously strong emotional chord with people. The Internet is full of clips of such moments. As I write this, the one making the rounds features a lion named Christian. As a cub, we are told, Christian was purchased by two men who saw him for sale in a London department store and took pity on him. A pastor friend of theirs allowed Christian the run of the grounds of his church. Christian grew, and eventually the men decided that even with all that grass to run on, he would be better off in the wild. They returned him to Africa and set him free. A year later they returned to pay him a visit. The Internet clip shows what happened when they did. Christian sees his former owners, runs toward them, leaps up, and--in an extraordinarily affectionate and strangely human-like way--embraces them.


Step-out moments between animals and other animals (usually a predator and a prey species) are equally popular. A few months back, several people sent me a photo of a group of huskies playing on the Arctic ice with a polar bear.

Why are scenes like this so powerful?

I suspect it’s because they remind us that all creatures, both animals and humans, are not just the flesh-and-blood beings we see on the surface, but spiritual beings: beings who are, in many of the things they normally do down here on earth, playing



Myths and legends from around the world speak of a time when the rules that make the physical world the strangely problematic place it is (rules such as the one that declares that a certain kind of creature must prey on another kind of creature in order to survive) did not yet exist. This was the time of Eden--the time before the world became the broken, diminished, conflicted, and hopelessly confusing place that Saint Paul declared it is for

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Ptolemy Tompkins
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