Human(e) to animals

A warm welcome from the project leader

Remember, child, how mysteriously / nature and the history of the world are united, / and how different the spring of spirit is / in all peoples on earth. / You well know that we are a world of competitions and races. / This is why you understand why the white horses / from Noah’s ark took refuge on our pure soil, / why they became our sacred animal, / why they entered the legends of history, / and why they excite our future, / ceaselessly seeking the Promised Land for us / and becoming the enthusiastic saddle of our spirit.

Edvard Kocbek, Lipizzaners, excerpt (1969)

Translated by Matjaž P. F. Krainer

It seems very fitting to start off our European Researchers’ Night – Humanities Rock! project, which is going to take place over the next two years under the slogan Human(e) to animals, with an excerpt from the poem Lipizzaners by Edvard Kocbek, where the poet enthuses over this horse, the pearl of the animal and human worlds. The poem is an ode to Lipizzaner horses, an ode to the human and animal worlds, and summarises everything our project aims for – discovering how they are intertwined, interdependent and, ideally, beautiful. In this time of great change, an awareness of discovery and the beauty of discovery is particularly important.

Climate change, recurring pandemic crises, divided political communities, the continuation of old wars and the eruption of new ones, the estrangement of social classes, the twilight of religions on the one hand and religious extremism on the other, apparent shifts in political power and more or less covert constitutional amendments – we live in a time of truly momentous change. Every such change takes place within the coordinates of the world, which comprise nature, human beings, authority and, more recently, artificial intelligence. This is a new historical reality that brings about great new challenges and dilemmas facing humanity and each individual.

In solving our dilemmas and facing our challenges, the discoveries that researchers and their sciences can provide will be essential. But neither sciences nor researchers fall from the sky; one could sooner say that both contain something devilish. Faust made a deal with the devil to reach discovery, giving himself up in the process. Long before, Eve and Adam had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, served by the seductive snake. What followed is the history of humankind. In other, less metaphorical words, discoveries require daring risks; one has to let oneself be taken beyond the imaginable, has to be fully human. Science is thus entirely performed by humans, and a scientist, a researcher is a human who cannot be unfamiliar with anything human.

The European Researchers’ Night – Humanities Rock! project brings together scientists, artists and researchers from the University of Ljubljana as well as many peers of theirs. It aims to draw attention to the importance of their work and to the dilemmas and challenges they face in their work and their life, as well as bring their discoveries closer to the widest possible public. Research into science and art, when accompanied by humanity, humanitas, is something inspiring and fascinating, something beautiful, just like humans can be beautiful, inspiring and fascinating.

The coexistence of the human and animal worlds can be particularly beautiful and fascinating, but the two worlds need to get to know each other well for this to work. Let us recall Chiron, a centaur appearing as half man, half horse, who taught fine arts to Achilles, Aeneas, Jason and many other Greek heroes, granting them discoveries. Let us recall once again Edvard Kocbek, a poet to whom horses, Lipizzaners, which he considered sacred, enabled the discovery that

“Nothing is darker / than clear talk / and nothing more real than a poem / which the intellect cannot comprehend”.

And let us recall the words spoken by the fox to the Little Prince:

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

Such uniqueness, such fascinating and inspiring closeness, fosters friendships and, even before that, discoveries.

In 2022 and 2023, the European Researchers’ Night – Humanities Rock! focuses on this very theme under the slogan Human(e) to animals. The sensibility of humans towards themselves, their loved ones and their opponents may be subject to fiery debates these days, but the humans’ stance towards animals is anything but sensible. While the times when humans kept animals purely for their own gain are long gone and while it is long since we realised that animals are social creatures with their own feelings, pleasures and pains, our awareness that we share our lives with animals and that animals have a right to their own lives is still weak. Humans still do not treat animals humanely.

And it is not an exaggeration to say that whoever thinks they are not an animal are not human. We are close to each other, animals and humans; too close not to be together. Over the next two years, our project will aim at discovering and creating such closeness.

Long live sciences! Long live researchers! Long live animals and the animals within humans! Long live humanity, humanitasHumanities rock!