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Outdoors: Lent Temptation

The solemn hymn “Forty days and Forty Nights” is often played or sung in Christian churches during the early weeks of Lent, the liturgical season between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

The forty days is probably more symbolic than numerically accurate.

Some, but not all, religious scholars suggest that “forty days and forty nights” is an ancient cliché, meaning “a very long time.”

In the story of Noah, it rained for forty days and forty nights. Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights. Elijah on Mt. Horeb. And Jesus fasting and tempted in the wilderness?

Were these exactly forty days and forty nights, or just a very long time?

First week of Lent commemorates temptation, which makes me wonder: do animals experience temptation?

When I was in school (which really was a very long time ago) we were cautioned not to assume that animals had human emotions.

However, animal behaviorists now believe animals indeed do have emotions and that intelligent animals experience temptation.

I’ve read a number of studies, but I’ve also personally observed animals exhibiting a desire to do something wrong or unwise.

For example, the black squirrels that live in the Mall at Interlochen frequently experience temptation.

When a camper drops an ice cream cone at the Melody Freeze, you can just see the squirrel pondering whether to risk venturing too near an exuberant cabin group. Temptation.

How about the a cluster of crows on a busy highway — gauging whether they could feed on a road-killed deer without getting hit by speeding cars. Temptation.

Ask any dog owner if their very intelligent pet who understands the rules of a household is ever tempted to break those rules.

The Christian season of Lent is forty days and forty nights (or 46 days if you count the days on the calendar).

To resist temptations for forty days and forty nights is “a very long time.”

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.