"I hate my life! I wish I was a [insert favorite animal here]"
How many times do you hear someone say that? Actually, how many times have *I* said that? As humans, we deal with so much crap that we don't want to deal with and I believe the truth is that God never intended it to be this way. There is a very important key to the story of Adam and Eve and that involves the name of the tree.
When God gave Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden, there was one tree that was called "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" and they were told that they were forbidden to eat from the tree. Later, Eve was tempted and mankind fell. People interpret all of the pain we experience now as a result of the sin but I don't think that is entirely true. Oh, the sin does not help, but I believe the tree really was what God called it. If you ate from the tree you gained knowledge of good and evil.
So what is one of the largest differences between humans and animals? Animals run off of pure instinct. Animals have very large emotions at times but everything they do is the result of an instinct. They don't have moral reasoning. When you're training a dog, the dog does not respond to negative reinforcement because you hurt their feelings but rather that they associate the bad thing they did with the bad result. The more I learn about birds, the more I learn this concept. My quaker says a lot of different words and she says them in very humorous times in many cases.... but those words are not said out of reasoning but rather out of a situation. It's an association of the word and some kind of external stimuli that prompts that word to be said. Again, there is no reasoning and no thought of "hey, it would be really funny if I said this"....
If we combine these two concepts then we can understand why people say they would rather be an animal. We're being punished for our sinful nature out of the natural result of the sin. If a child touches a hot stove, they are naturally punished by being burned. The nature of eating of the fruit of that tree was that we now have this knowledge and moral reasoning that we were not initially intended to have. As a result, we have to deal with a lot more than just acting upon instinct. So if animals still act only upon instinct, it's only natural that we would want to be one of those animals that doesn't have to worry about moral reasoning. They don't have to wonder what the "correct" response is and how it might affect other people's feelings. As humans, we don't want this responsibility. The truly sad part about this is that we take on even more than we have to. We take it to the extreme and we transfer this into a model of weighing what other people think of us before we act.
Last night I was hanging out with a 1 year old and I was curbing fussiness by acting like a complete and total idiot in a very congested neighborhood. The happiness of that child was much more important to me than what other people (strangers) thought of me. Last night I was able to simply act without thinking of what anyone else thought of me. I erased that line that everyone so often prevents them from allowing them to do something that their nature and their instinct would have had them do. They miss out..... the same way I miss out all the times that I allow that line to stop me. I was rewarded last night by something that I couldn't have even began to expect. Out of nowhere I received one of the greatest hugs of my life. It may sound small but in this situation, it meant more to me than anyone can even begin to imagine. Nothing I did was working towards that hug -- but that is what made it so awesome.
There are a lot of trade offs to the fact that we now face moral judgement. We experience ups and downs. While it may be true that things would be less painful if Adam and Eve had never sinned, it also would mean that we wouldn't experience a lot of the amazing happiness that we now can. For one example, animals don't even enjoy sex -- oh, but we do! Because of our struggles, we gain great rewards and one of the reasons those rewards are so strong is simply because we had to work for them and we understand the opposite. We understand the pain and as a result, we can enjoy the happiness even more.
While there is a very evident sign of emotions inside many animals, it is not the same as what we, as humans, experience. The emotions that animals experience are based out of instinct. This doesn't mean that your dog or my birds don't want us around them or that they are not happy to see us but their base emotion is not what we know as love. While my birds are happy to see me and sad to see me leave, their instincts are greater. Bacardi has bit me quite a few times and it wasn't because he was out to attack me or because he wanted to hurt me but rather because he felt threatened for one reason or another. Animals are not able to have a self-less love for anyone else. It is only humans that are able to intentionally lay down their lives for a friend....
.... and it is that reason that selflessness and erasing the lines of "the way it is" is so important to our happiness. When we make a sacrifice for someone else we are rewarded by knowing that we have done something that most of the universe is incapable of. It's what makes us, as humans, unique... and that is what we search for most: Uniqueness.