Media Animals Who Matter

When I was a child, like many of my peers I enjoyed TV programs about animals such as Lassie, Mr. Ed, and Rin Tin Tin. As I grew older I took note of the endless parade of other animal stars from Flipper and Cheetah to the animated celebrities like Bambi, Mickey Mouse, and Nemo.

Interspersed with these endearing anthropomorphized animals were “real” media animals such as those depicted in the famous documentaries Winged Migration and March of the Penguins. Additionally, I became exposed to the long list of mediated “faux animals” like schmoos, smurfs, and minions, not to mention re-imagined species such as the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and a wide range of beasts introduced via science fiction and horror films.


From a spiritual standpoint, what has intrigued me is how easily the more idyllic four legged, two winged, and multi-finned characters could open the hearts of audiences, especially of children. Many of these “real” animals have taught us about unconditional love, unwavering loyalty, and self-sacrifice.

The most recent of these real animal heroes to be brought to screen is the Marine Corps German shepherd named Rex, who was paired with Marine Corps lance corporal Megan Leavey at Camp Pendleton (California) in 2003. Leavey learned to be a dog-handler and served with Rex in Fallujah (2005) and Ramadi (2006) during the U.S. war with Iraq.  Throughout the feature film, Megan Leavey, audiences learn to admire both the military dogs who save numerous lives (by sniffing for hidden explosives) and their trainers who constantly face grave danger walking through dangerous mine fields while under attack.

Although one is often moved by such films due to the animal’s exceptional heroism, what seems even deeper is that the canine (or dolphin, cat, horse, or whatever) teaches the human being about love and about regaining primal spirituality. Usually in the “animal bonding” plots, the primary human characters have been wounded or alienated and thus they have difficulty with trust, with relationships, and with living with themselves. It is often the animal who models unconditional giving and loyalty to their human partner such that the wounded human learns to trust first their “pet” and then eventually to trust other humans and life itself.

In Megan Leavey the disheartened and aloof central character is told “think about what Rex taught you about love.” Although the affection between dog (Rex) and human (Megan) is reciprocated, it is indeed Rex the dog who gives unselfishly and which saves the lives of numerous humans by risking his own.

Although Rex initially has anger issues, the audience is willing to forgive these in light of the damage done to the psyche of military animals. After all they have been trained by soldiers and often within the atmosphere of war.

Ultimately, the audience is reminded that many pets and other animals live in a state of “primal spirituality.” They serve without desire for reward and express an innocence and nobility seldom found in their “masters’ personalities.  Whether it is dolphins who rescue unknown sailors at sea, or horses who return their wounded riders to a safe destination, or rescue dogs who risk everything to pull lost skiers from avalanche drifts, audiences are reminded that the greatest courage of all is often expressed by our speechless companions.

It is precisely because animals are speechless that we need media which intercedes and advocates for them. I have heard scientists say that every seven seconds another species disappears on the earth. So whether the seven seconds is accurate or not, these vanishing species certainly need a voice – one which reminds us of the invaluable integrity and importance of animals and one which will present their endangered perspective rather than simply showing the cute, cuddly side of our domesticated friends.

Films like Cowspiracy and Food Inc. help us better appreciate the plight of edible animals while Gore’s, An Inconvenient Sequel and DiCaprio’s Before the Flood help us better understand the mutual fate all species, including humanity, share.  From that standpoint it is essential to support media that educate us about the viewpoint and likely fate of all species.

Films like Megan Leavey help to sensitize human beings to the value, intelligence, character, and heroism of spiritual beings who come in four-legged containers. We humans have no monopoly on spirituality and indeed, from the perspective of other species, we humans are the problem species, the only one which is eliminating all the others.

Moreover, fact-based biopics about courageous animals at risk motivate us to better understand them and take actions on their behalf. Such scripts also remind us of what we are all capable of to the extent we can shed our programming and two-legged pseudo-sophistication. We are reminded that we are all here to serve others, to express loyalty to a higher purpose, and to teach others how to open their hearts by opening our own. Rex does this successfully in Megan Leavey and many animals do this successfully in our lives.

We are often cautioned that the human race must be careful not to stoop to the level of becoming “animals” in a “dog-eat-dog” world. But given how far humans have fallen already, it is more likely that we must rise to the level of those animals who give unconditional love and loyalty.

In that light, it is important for all of us to see role models such as Rex frequently on our screens. For while it was Megan Leavey who deservedly earned a Purple Heart, it was Rex who most revealed a golden one.

DR. TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston).  Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others),  co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.

The Inspiration List

The Inspiration List

Almost all professional media critics and pundits put out a top 10 or top 100 list of the best films, TV programs, albums, websites, or books of the year. I note that many people question these lists, especially since some choices may seem highly subjective. Indeed many lists have been controversial since we humans seldom agree upon standards about what “best” or “top” means.

However, the lists do serve the purpose of calling our attention to creative works we might otherwise miss. And some lists prompt us to think about which media truly topped our own list, perhaps a list we’d like to share with our friends. We often make such a list informally when we say, “Did you see …?” or “you must listen to ….!”. Over the year we create our list by promoting our favorites without realizing it.

What if someone created a different type of listing such as, “the most inspiring” or “the most spiritual” media of all time? Or, what if the list were more modestly identified as  “media that matter” or “media that elevate” so they are not tied to the notion that I am somehow uniquely qualified to determine what is best, nor caught up in the  comparison game.

Throughout the year, I’ve given readers examples of works in different media that I and close friends of mine have found uplifting. In this blog I have called them Media which Matter. So, I’d like to compile a list that includes some of these in case you or your friends are looking for the opposite of a bucket list. The inspiration list I’ve compiled is not tied to something to do before you eventually die, like a bucket list does, but rather to enrich your very reason for living.

In the lists below I’ll also add some other “elevators,” (media which “take you up”) and “beacons,” (media which show the way forward) that I’ve not yet mentioned in case you are looking for fresh inspiration and vision. When people are laid up in a hospital for weeks due to an injury or they go on vacation or have a date night with a partner, they often ask, “What can I (or we) screen, hear or read which might be a meaningful use of time?” Here are some all time classics mixed with more recent high-beamers which may be of interest to you, to your family and friends. No list is ever complete so please feel free to share the titles of works that you would recommend as escalators for the soul.



Amazing Grace (Wilberforce vs. slavery in England)

Chariots of Fire (Eric Liddle/others at the Olympics)

Cosmic Zoom (where we fit in the universe)

Eddie the Eagle (British skier)

Brother Son, Sister Moon (St. Francis)

Flatland: The Movie (geometry points toward spirituality)

Gandhi (biography of the Mahatma)

The Letters (Mother Theresa’s victories)

Life is Beautiful (shining the light during the holocaust)

Lost Horizon (reaching Shangri-La)

Panta Rhei (means “all things flow”)

Race (Jesse Owens at the Olympics)

What the Bleep?



Winter’s Tale

Beauty and the Beast



The Lion King

Man of La Mancha

Our Town

Sound of Music

South Pacific

The Tempest




A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles (Marianne Williamson)

As of a Trumpet (Martin Exeter)

Beyond Belief (Martin Exeter)

The Bhagavad Gita (Hindu sacred text)

Becoming a Sun (David Karchere, in press)

Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao (Wayne Dyer)

Conversations with God I, II, and III (Neale Donald Walsch)

A Course in Miracles (Dr. Helen Schucman)

On Eagle’s Wings (Martin Exeter)

The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren)

The Secret (Rhonda Byrne)

Seven Steps to the Temple of Light (Uranda)

The Tao Te Ching (Lao-Tsu)

Walden (H.D. Thoreau)

In previous blogs, I have also listed music, photographs, websites and other media that matter. And yet, if you are stranded on a dessert island someday, if you bring along only what is above, to my modest view you will be discovering life’s secrets and reconnecting with your/our primal spirituality.

Naturally, I’m interested in your own list and in compiling inventories of catalysts which serve as can-openers to the heart. None of these lists or titles have meaning except as they open us up. Then it is what comes forth which matters most.

Books, plays, and movies are just a sign pointing to the main event–YOU! You are the medium that most matters. Our primal spirituality comes from a medium far larger than has ever been projected onto a screen or captured in print.  Vive le true medium–the light that you are and that powers the universe.

TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston).  Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others),  co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.

Understanding the Blessing: Primal Spirituality



Primal Spirituality is the spirituality you were born with. This naturally indicates that there is a presence of being that existed before “you” were born. There is a spirituality that transcends the human experience and the

Primal Spirituality is the spirituality you were born with.

There are structures of design within creation that are set as the rules of the game. For those that know the rules of the game, they are able to play at a higher level than their brother and sister who do not understand why things are happening the way they are. There is a divine design, the way things work, and there are consequences of life when we try to work outside the design. This is not punishment from an angry God, simply the result of the One Law: Radiation/Response, Action/Reaction, Cause/Effect.

There are certain gateways within the human design that either allow for or block the expression of seven divine virtues for a whole and healthy life. As human beings, we are made up of a combination of elemental influences and natural capacities. We each have a body, of whatever type and function. We each have a mind, however well wired or trained. We each have a feeling realm, to whatever degree of sensitivity. We each have a spiritual connection, by whatever name we give it.


The four primary elemental influences of earth, air, water and fire.

The four primary elemental influences of earth, air, water and fire are represented in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual make-up of a human being. As each one of these capacities interacts with another, there is specific dynamic that occurs in the interchange. The Spirit has something to give to the heart and the heart has something to give to Spirit in return. The naming of the dynamic that happens in that exchange is known as Blessing.

Creation has a process and a design for how it naturally works. Because we are co-creators gifted with free will, we can create whatever and however we want, whether it is of a higher design and outworking or not. Imagine children working on a construction site without care for each other’s wellbeing, understanding of the machinery or even a plan of what they are building. Utter disregard, chaos and confusion, and somebody is probably going to get hurt. Have you ever seen that energy playing out in the world? How about someone you know or even yourself in your own life?

If we are creating in opposition to the natural design of human function then what is meant to be a blessing can appear to be a curse instead, and before you know it you end up cursing your world instead of blessing it. What should rightly be an experience of growing understanding and awareness of what’s happening and why, instead becomes a maze of confusion, assumptions and misunderstanding. And yet, even though this phenomenon is common, it’s not real on its own. It is simply an experience of the absence of blessing and understanding. We do not have to get rid of the curses or fight off the confusion. We simply have to learn how to increase the experience of blessing and understanding in our own life through practicing natural function.

Primal Spirituality 1 – Blessing and Understanding is a 4-day journey with many modalities of self-discovery, creative expression and group learning. A participant is encouraged to see the blocks they have unconsciously created, forgive and release them, and allow something of Spirit to move through the heart and mind with the healing power of Love. These first two of seven gateways are really important as they serve as a healthy foundation to create from for all of your relationships and other creations. Anyone who learns and honestly applies these principles with consistency will radically transform their experience. Would you like to discover a greater degree of blessing and understanding in your own life!?


Click Here to Learn More and Register for Primal Spirituality 1: Blessing and Understanding


Gary Goodhue is a student and teacher of consciousness and creation. He focuses on bringing deep principles of Truth and Love into practical, every day application. The results are increased presence, clarity, peace, focus and power.

Dissension – Friend or Foe?

  So many words, so many points of view, so much conflict and disagreement—Liberal or Conservative, Christian or Muslim, the young or the old, guns or no guns, on and on. Every generation throughout history seems to have experienced some sort of dissension, rebellion, even anger against the status quo. And every generation experiences resentment,Continue Reading


Wasn’t it the great writer, Max Beerbohm, who said, “radio is like a friend in one’s room?” If you’ve ever been in your room alone or despondent and then your favorite song was aired or a familiar radio host said something upbeat, you may recall the “instant friendship” which lit up your otherwise dreary day.Continue Reading