Remembering alt.lifestyle.furry is an essay in three parts. This is part three.
In reading the words of alt.lifestyle.furry participants, one may observe that the newsgroup had become a place where many felt safe in the telling of their profound feelings of personal animal identity and experiences of mental transformations. Popular culture often denigrates the authenticity and validity of spiritual or mystic experiences, so it was a brave effort for some to share their stories. Here is more of their conversation.
"…I have an extremely personal note that I shared in email with a couple of furries, and one suggested I share it with the world. I feel strangely nervous about it, but my feelings have been greeted kindly in the past, so...here goes...
I am no master of the mystic or anything, but...I think I've had a spiritual experience (and by that I mean I don't think I've grasped the full profoundness of it yet). Like I've said in the past, a little over a month ago this lion just suddenly grabbed me. I felt his form surrounding mine. I could picture myself as him, and it gave me new confidence n dealing with other people. It was thrilling to envision taking on his form...my heart stopped when, for one too-brief moment, I actually looked at my feet and saw paws. The physical nature of this union is not always as strong now--and how I miss it!--but I feel like the lion's spirit has been united (re-united?) with mine. I started out thinking I was indulging in fantasy, but I don't think so anymore. Has anybody ever felt this way?"
A replied to Lion, saying...
"I haven't experienced that effect visually, but I frequently experience it kinesthetically. The first time it happened I was about 12 years old and I was riding in a car in rural Colorado… I happened to see a horse grazing, and suddenly my kinesthetic sense was no longer my own, but rather that of the horse. I think this may be somewhat similar to the "ghost limbs" frequently reported by amputees. I've felt it many more times since then with many different animal species, and in fact I find I can bring it on deliberately rather easily now, at least with mammals."
TG replied to them both, saying...
"What you've described does seem like a genuinely mystical experience- not that I'd really know, though. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced, though it seems to remind me of something someone else once described to me. I don't remember who it was. All I can say is it's impossible to escape the sense of healthfulness and positiveness which seems to glow from your description. Whatever journey you're on, it sounds like a good one, and I'm a little jealous. Most of all it reminds me that there's more out there than we know about, which always re-assures me, for some reason."
Lion said again...
"All I can say is it feels like a good journey. I am so thankful God has blessed me like this. And why shouldn't it be reassuring that there is more out there than we know? If it wasn't for faith and hope, I wouldn't be here now. (And if you read into that a meaning in addition to here in alt.lifestyle.furry, you're right.)"
Wolf spoke. . .
"Yay! to both of you. It's really different when you gain a whole new viewpoint in another kind of body. Don't be afraid down the road, Lion. Such a thing can grow on you. The know of wolf-thought is seldom far from me- most of the time. Now that you've experienced it, let it ride you from time to time, in a safe environment where you won't get hurt as you "ken" (Scottish: "to know") the feel of lion in and around you. A friend of mine has puma as her "totem" and she can slip into the mindset at the drop of a hat. I've a way to go yet to be able to do that with wolf (big, tongue-lolling grin).
A, I'm envious of you. Being able to slip into various mammals is a rarity. Unless it's a way for you to try on several different feels until the one meant for you really hits. (Or do you have one in particular?) If you do have your true animal, then work to keep this gift active. Like I said, it's a rare homo sap who can do the old shamanic mind-dance and take on any animal and be them for a time. Just take precautions to keep from getting lost in that state of mind. Sometimes it's real tempting to not come back."
Lion replied to Wolf…
"The only thing I was afraid of was not being understood. I feel that you understand very well what I am experiencing, and I'm thrilled to not only be accepted but to know others have similar experiences. I long for the chance to "ken" the lion--there are far to many distractions every day. These distractions put food on the table, but it seems like a waste of my effort in exchange for a paycheck. I really want to commune with the lion, talk with other furries, live, love, laugh, and be happy and slip into bits of old songs on occasion."
<The manticore bounces happily at this thread>
"Yes! That's it exactly!
I can't recall if I ever posted the story of my Transformation here; blame it on my age-calcified brain if you like. But that sudden all-enveloping sense of rightness and homecoming is exactly what I felt when T. and I stood face-to-face in my mind's eye.
That first time was about a year and a half ago; since then his presence has grown so strong that, in all important respects other than physically, I've become him. I think of myself as T, I see him in the mirror (a very odd experience, let me tell you); sometimes I even feel as if I'm about to shift, to take his form for real.
Darn it, it all make me so blasted happy to be this way! But I wish I had discovered it much earlier; it is a bit disconcerting to have one's life change so radically..."
I've had similar things happen, for a few brief seconds I feel as if I have a tail. Such moments are treasured.
"I don't believe my experience was any great union, but it was a vision or something--maybe just a feeling of connectivity with things.
I was in Montana at field camp and out hiking at night. It was a full moon, and cloudy. The moon was bright enough that it actually created moonbeams where it peeked through the clouds. I cam upon a clearing where one of these moonbeams was actually illuminating the area. As I stepped into the light, I had...a vision...feeling...I dunno, of being a dragon high in the clouds. I could almost see myself in the clearing below. I heard a voice. I've forgotten the exact wording, but it said something like "between the light and the land it lies."
Now I don't believe dragons ever physically existed, but I do know that the dragon in many cultures is the personification of the earth energies. I feel the experience was partly generated by outside forces, but much of the imagery might have been my own subconscious interpreting things in a way I could understand. I've always felt a strong connection with nature (and, hence, animals), but it has always been stronger since that experience. I also feel fortunate in that I think the experience gave me the opportunity to experience the sensation of of unaided flight."
"...the way it was for me; a revelatory experience that somewhere crosses into the mystical or religious. You end up sitting around, grinning a lot, because the thing's so damned wonderful when it happens...
...When it happened to me, I was under the impression that it was something kinda unique (and, because of my innate rationalism, therefore suspect) but lately there have been a lot of posts from furrys who have undergone the same kind of experience, and that really does assure me that what happened was really real.
...Finding the key, the trigger, however you see it, isn't impossible, and I doubt there any one particular way to do it. Indeed, I believe that it's something you find by chance when the circumstances are right."
TG spoke again, saying:
"I think it's a mistake to imply that furriness is something which people need to "grow beyond", in the sense of giving up childish things. In many cases furries do not grow into their sense of furriness until way, way, past adolescence. I know furries who didn't really recognise that aspect of themselves until they were around 50, and the experience seems to have been a joyous, healthful one rather than some kind of retreat from reality. I certainly agree that we need to pay at the very least an adequate amount of attention to RL, but there are innumerable ways to be furry depending on the individual in question, and relatively few of them, IMO, appear to involve a denial of reality. I would be more inclined to say that they involve an acknowledgment of aspects of self which have been suppressed, or not apparent previously, and a willingness to explore those aspects. To me the journey is towards integration and self-discovery, not isolation."
What I have presented to you in this essay is a small part of the story of the alt.lifestyle.furry newsgroup from its inception in 1996 until it began to decline in activity and participation, perhaps around 2005. There are many more stories contained in the archive of alt.lifestyle.furry, some of them good, and some not so cheerful. It is my opinion that the characteristics that defined alt.lifestyle.furry remain at large in the furry community today. Do some contemporary furries have the same feelings and experiences that these alt.lifestyle.furry participants had? My casual examination of furry internet forums suggests to me that they do. Will we ever again see a coming-together as they did back then?
Thank you, founders of alt.lifestyle.furry and all other furries who shared their light with the community. Please let me conclude now with my favorite quotation from one of the founders of alt.lifestyle.furry, Tim Gadd.
"The happiest furries I know are the ones who embrace their identity rather than rejecting or suppressing it. Of course that identity may reveal itself piece by piece. I've been furry for a long time, but in certain ways I'm only beginning to really examine what my own individual brand of furriness is. I'm sure that the direction you're headed is positive and right for you. No-one can say there won't be bumps on the way, but I'm sure the trend is upwards :)"