A post on another blog got me thinking about pets and the weird way we interact with them. This is going to be a rather rambling post, so bear with me.
I've felt threatened a lot in my life, whether to livelihood or relationships or bodily damage. It comes with the territory of being mortal and fallable, I think, though there are a lot of extra threats that crop up from my gender identity and presentation and that wonderful breaching experiment of openly homosexual interactions in public. I know how I get when I or someone I care about is in danger, and I know what best and worst case scenarios look like. That said, there is one threat that I keep running into that feels fresh pretty much every time I hit it.
When I tell people I keep a pet tarantula, a number of them feel obligated to immediately notify me that they are a great danger to her existence. A good number of the arachnophobes I know will just declare their fear and request that they not come into contact with my baby, which, while a little sad, I can understand and respect. They don't bother me overmuch.
What does bother me is the way some of them declare that, if they come into contact with this tiny, fuzzy creature barely capable of causing pain most of the masochists I know would call a decent warm-up, they will, without fail, end her life violently. It's not comfortable having to squash that parental instinct to cause bodily harm to any creature that might bring about the death of your child, particularly when you know so few people will understand why you care so much for the invertebrate.
She really is my baby, though. When I got her a little under a year ago she was barely the size of the fingernail on my pinky. I remember fondly moving her from one pill bottle to another and marvelling that she was now as wide across as one of my fingers. (She now has a legspan roughly equivalent to the breadth of my palm.) I've seen her change size and shape and color, fretted over her health the first time she stopped eating to shed, and made sickening kissy noises at her much to the horror of the other people in the room. I'm responsible for her, particularly since I know nobody else in my life will give her an ounce of the compassion I do.
I'm solely responsible for the existence, care, and comfort of this little life. If she leaves her little deli tub, it's because I came in to move her. If she has little friends to give hugs and kisses to, it's because I fed her. Her deli tub is there because I found one, put holes in the lid, and filled the base with coconut shavings. I'm her Mommy and her owner and her Goddess.
That's really the thing that's been sticking in my mind about this whole arrangement. To a non-sentient being reliant on you for food and shelter and other care, you're a deity. You come in from on high and provide for them, and they likely don't fully understand the interaction. When done benevolently, that has a lot of curious similarities to parental interactions. When done not-so-benevolently, it has some really uncomfortable similarities to domestic abuse.
It also seems tied to a lot of D/s sorts of dynamics. When lost in subspace, a person is relatively dependent on their Dominant to look after them. That concept ties in the spiritual aspects, the parental interactions, and the easy indicators of abuse in a strange sort of way. There's a reason so many D-types call their s-types "pet", I suppose. My mind sort of immediately balks at the comparison as readily as it tries to follow it, hanging itself up on the whole "sentient being" sticking point.
So as I'm mulling that over it comes to me that, following this weird, awkward, rambling analogy, a D/s dynamic is, in a way, a religion the deity and non-deity can opt out of any point in time. That sort of slots in well with my, "every human being is their own God/dess," belief. When I'm Dominating someone, I'm just lending them my personal inner Goddess for the evening. When I look after Scrum, I feel the gentle hand of my Goddess guiding me. When I submit to someone, I reach up and into them and find their inner deity, inscrutable and commanding, and pray to it to give me all the good pain.
And that's about as spiritual as I ever get.