It’s impossible to fully explain what an exquisite treasure Bakersfield College’s Levan Center for the Humanities has become. Since opening in 2010, the Center has consistently featured a variety of speakers and presentations that run the gamut of academic disciplines.
But the true crowning achievement of a Levan Center event is that you can often walk into a given presentation knowing virtually nothing about the topic, only to leave enthralled and excited about a field or an idea or a personality that you never would have guessed could or would so capture your imagination.
Anne Benvenuti, who regaled the Levan Center audience on Feb. 23, believes the great divide often put between humans and the rest of Earth’s creatures isn’t nearly as great as many think. In fact, the professor, clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest says changing how we think and relate to animals would take a profound step toward changing all life on the planet for the better.
Reading from her new book “Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations,” Benvenuti recounted her encounter with a dehydrated bat she found during a hike. First taking the animal for dead, she quickly realized the still breathing bat’s plight when it brought its tiny hands to its dry tongue, all but begging for water.
After quenching the animal’s thirst in a nearby creek, the apparently grateful creature swam away – but the brief intersection of their two lives left Benvenuti further convinced in the power of silent communication.
“Love one little thing and you love the entire universe that holds it,” Benvenuti writes. “As well as the essence from which it pours forth, and the pulse that beats in it, and the breath that heaves it, and the awareness that connects it. Save one little thing and you save your soul entire.”
During her hour-long discussion “Dr. Doolittle’s Heaven,” Benvenuti outlined some of the contemporary research establishing language as a common pervasive system across the animal kingdom and attempted to tear down the remaining perceived barriers separating humans from the rest of the planet’s animal life.
Benvenuti advocates new definitions of soul and spirituality that not only encompass all the vast variety of life on Earth, but the adoption of a type of natural spirituality that will forever bind that life together.
Heady stuff…but exactly the kind of stuff the Levan Center was created to showcase.
Moments like Anne’s soul-enriching talk are a constant reminder to me to recognize and appreciate the vision of Dr. Norman Levan in funding the center’s creation.
Dr. Levan left us last year, but as I watched this woman speak and saw the engagement in her audience, all held in rapt attention, I knew that somewhere, he was very pleased.