27 December 2006

When Animals Sue... (Book Review)

The Animals' Lawsuit Against Humanity: An Illustrated 10th Century Iraqi Ecological Fable
buy the book

In a recent mention of some notable global books, I overlooked one that I recently read. It's a remarkable story, originating in India, first written down in an Arabic version by members of the Islamic Sufi Order of the Pure Brethren near what is now Basra, Iraq. Then translated and adapted in 1316 by Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kaolnymus (known to Christians as Maestro Calo) at the order of King Charles of Anjou (France). Finally, this English version by Rabbi Anson Laytner and Rabbi Dan Bridge, based on a Hebrew text and published in 2005.

If all that makes your head spin, don't fret. The story itself is fairly simple, but like any great tale it has layers of meaning for adults and children alike. The plot: The animals are being abused by humans, and they bring a lawsuit alleging this to the court of the Spirits. The King of the Spirits hears arguments from both sides.

It seems pretty clear that the animals have a compelling complaint, but the wise king must balance not only justice, but the survival of all the species, including domesticated animals that may not be able to survive in the wild, and also humans themselves. Further adding to the complexity are the two camps' discussions of strategy, and their contingency plans should the ruling go against them.

Kultur Shock - Kultura DiktaturaThe arguments are some of the same ones being heard today, and the resolution of the lawsuit may well have lessons for contemporary society. This book's interfaith and multicultural approach to the issue and its roots in an ancient tale, make it a compelling read and accessible to any person thoughtful about human interaction with the rest of creation.

A proper musical accompaniment to this book would be thoughtful, deeply spiritual, and full of the wisdom of the ages. Instead, I offer this loud, raucous, angry tune from Seattle's resident Balkan-Gypsy Punk outfit.

[mp3] Kultur Shock: "Horse Thief"
from the album Kultura Diktatura

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