Eye-To-Eye Animal Encounters

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There’s a certain a kind of visual encounter that can be life changing: A cross-species gaze. The experience of looking directly into the eyes of an animal in the wild, and seeing it look back. It happens more often than you’d think and it can be so profound, there’s a name for it: eye-to-eye epiphany. So what happens when someone with feathers or fur and claws looks back? How does it change people, and what can it teach us?

Human identity cannot be separated from our nonhuman kin. From forest ecology to the human microbiome, emerging research suggests that being human is a complicated journey made possible only by the good graces of our many companions. In partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature and with support from the Kalliopeia Foundation, To The Best Of Our Knowledge is exploring this theme of “kinship” in a special radio series.

To learn more about the Kinship series, head to ttbook.org/kinship.

In The Eye Of The Osprey: A Physicist’s Wild Epiphany

osprey

Locking eyes with another creature in the wild can be a profound experience. For physicist and writer Alan Lightman, half a second of eye contact with a pair of ospreys felt like an epiphany.

100 Bird Eyes Are Watching You

"Birds Watching." Printed reflective film mounted on aluminum on steel frame.

In Chicago, writer Gavin Van Horn and environmental artist Jenny Kendler visit her new art installation, which confronts viewers with the gaze of 100 giant bird eyes. It’s meant to provoke curiosity, wonder, and awareness of how many non-human eyes are always watching us.

The Look That Changed Primatology

chimpanzee

In 1960, a young primatologist stared deeply into the eyes of a wild chimpanzee. She was Jane Goodall. He was David Greybeard. Their mutual gaze changed animal science forever.

Watching the Fierce Green Fire Die: Animal Gazes That Shaped Conservation Movements

Northern Rocky Mountains wolf

There are two famous moments that helped shape environmental politics. Gavin Van Horn, of the Center for Humans and Nature, tells us what happened when Aldo Leopold met the eyes of a dying timber wolf and when Paul Watson looked into the eye of a dying sperm whale.

The 600 Million Year History Of The Eye

owl

Dogs, cats, birds, frogs, even insects watch us. Each with a different kind of eye. What, and how, do they see? Ivan Schwab is an ophthalmologist who’s been fascinated by that question for a long time.

‘We Are The Feast’ — A Feminist Philosopher’s Life-Changing Encounter With A Crocodile

crocodile eye

The feminist eco-philosopher Val Plumwood was one of the few people to survive a crocodile’s death roll. The attack reoriented her thinking about life, death, and what it means to be human.

How Do You Practice Kinship? A Brief Meditation

Gavin on the 606.

Eye-to-eye epiphanies are experiences of kinship with the more-than-human world. Gavin Van Horn says kinship is also something to practice. He shares a few thoughts about how.

Sharing Eye-To-Eye Epiphanies With The Animal World

eyes

Squirrels and pigeons share our sidewalks and park benches. Crows pick through our trash, rabbits munch on our lawns. They watch us; we ignore them. What would change if we actually met their eyes? 

Further Reading:

“The Disruptive Eye” by Gavin Van Horn“6 a.m. on LaSalle Street” by Katherine Cummings“Salmon Speak ~ Why Not Earth?” by Bron Taylor“The Eyes of an Owl” by Greg Ripley“From Bestiary” by Elise Paschen

Original Air Date: February 08, 2020

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