"What does it mean to be human?" This question has, for thousands of years, expressed our yearning for self-understanding. The question has, however, made distinguishing humans from nonhuman animals a central project of religious, ethical, and philosophical inquiry. In pursuit of such a distinction, a wide range of traits have been suggested as belonging to all and only humans. As these suggestions have largely failed to withstand scrutiny, we have begun to learn that, "What does it mean to be animal?" is at least as important a question as, "What does it mean to be human?" Understanding ourselves requires grasping our commonality with other animals, not demarcating differences.
Related essential questions include: How do we relate to other species as one animal among many? What ways of relating are possible? What is justice in the context of that relationship? And what is our self-interest? How do we make sense of the harm inherent in biotic community? How can possibly nonlinguistic voices be "brought to the table" (rather than placed on it), while also expanding our ability to listen to the voices of the human species and respond with justice for all? How is our, and their, and the biotic community's well-being and flourishing realized through our attentive regard for other species? How can we as Unitarian Universalists provide leadership and ministry in innovative ways that meet the spiritual needs of our people in this time of climate change, loss of biodiversity, and extinction? How can Unitarian Universalists prepare for the vote at General Assembly 2017 where we are asked to change the First Principle to the "inherent worth and dignity of every being?" How can we facilitate the paradigm shift from separation and individualism to unity and interdependence? How can we take risks when so much is at risk? Instructors and participants together explore the many complex nuances of understanding and personally realizing the emerging "beloved multispecies community."