Tag Archives: animals

… perception & difference …

Try and shut your eyes to slits and blink through autumn branches against the light. With patience, a young-woman-old-hagmoment arrives when black and white spaces inverse and clusters of stars shine from another dimension. The background has moved to the foreground. A tiny shift in our outlook can result in a new interpretation of what we see, like in the gestalt drawing  on the right, which changes the age of the person if you let your eyes wander up and down the image. Visual tricks that open a sudden gap in our seeing reveal how we jump to superficial referencing. Making snap assessments is convenient, safes time, energy, and sometimes lives, but can also trap us in a kind of flatland of rigid divisions.

What do we mean when we say he or she is different – do they look different, act different, think different, or have customs that seem strange to us? Typical brackets are class, gender, cultural background, colour, language, age, ability … and migrants. Defining people by categories clicks in as a default opinion when real or imagined threats require scapegoats. Or resources are scare and solidarity is politically expedient.  Suddenly the need to belong and historical prejudices reasserts themselves.

Beneath all habitual categories prowls what is frequently forgotten … the inherent natural tendency of each individual. Consider relatives, neighbours, familiars, friends and foes. The differences that delight orfoetus-2 irritate us lie foremost in a person’s unique temperament and inherent tendencies. Background does not explain the mystery of characteristics we are born with, the random mix of evolutionary records in our bodies, a wisdom our minds expand upon through resonance with the collective psyche – a shared matrix of past experience and future potential from which we, ideally, emerge as a self-reflective persona. (The theory of a collective unconscious and similar non-evidenced theories relate to my experience.)

Environmental factors can distort the unfolding of latent knowledge in every living organism. Education has a detrimental effect on children when their intuition is belittled and their minds are flattened with facts before they developed the confidence to question these facts.

P1090890 - Copy (2)How come I’m invigorated by rushing waters, calmed by a smooth stone, a golden sunset? How do I sense the pulse in a tree, or what life is like for a boar, rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog –  unless all nature’s qualities also reside in me?

For example, anyone who sits in a public place and watches people stroll by will notice traces of animal features; can spot a temperament in gestures and movements, observe someone dragging their body behind their head, or push their belly out like a shield. Some people dance along with a fluid gait, while others tiptoe and glance nervously about them.

mercats-copy-smallerAt social gatherings we may come upon clusters of meerkats grooming each other, turtles plodding through the crowd looking for a mate or a fresh salad leaf, peacocks, obsessed with their splendour, blustery cockerels, loving old dogs, sharp-eyed falcons, enchanting robins, and so on. …

birds-and-cake

Birds are keen on cake but wary of cats, whereas lions can afford to be relaxed.  How amazing then to observe vastly different temperaments complementing each other – like a person falcon-smaller-stillwith a butterfly nature tying up with a partner who occasionally roars. Given the rich lore of sensibilities mixing and battling in the human psyche, strangers should be less strange than we make them out to be.

Initial likes and dislikes, even among kin, have nothing to do with background, morals or ethics. Wariness goes along with fascination when it comes to difference. We may not be keen to share a nest, but sharing a street is fun. Nature is a mirror that teaches us how to become human. And animals deserve our special appreciation for reminding us of the innumerable diverse idiosyncrasies in ourselves.

Animals have appeared in wonderful stories around the world, like the Aesop’s Fables   or the much older Indian Panchatantra Collection – the chief source of the world’s fable literature.

img131-smallerThe Persian translation became the Fables of Bidpai. Lovely collections of Kalila and Dimna were published by Ramsey Wood,  one with an introduction from Doris Lessing. I got permission from Ramsay Wood to use a short tale from his collection in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors.’

Programmes on ‘Respecting Difference’ have made it into schools and institutions. But can respect be taught in a few hours? More effective are courses that help people to find self-respect through exploring the diverse feelings and judging voices within themselves, the inner conflicts that manifest for us outside.

Acknowledgement, at least, tolerance and patience with our inner crowd eases snap projections and allows us to rediscover ourselves in the eyes and minds of others day by day. The internet expands this mirroring into timeless realms,  from where echoes of our own dissonance or resonance return.

In the analogue world people are on the move across the planet – for various reasons – war – drought – famine – persecution – fresh meaning – it is happening, and it will continue. The most productive response to this phenomenon is to embrace its creative potential.

The other day woke up with this thought: Migrants, indeed all citizens sans resources but able and willing to work, could be given the spaces to create new towns, be empowered to build their own houses and develop their own businesses, and conducts, as a way towards gaining self-respect, and in addition contribute to the well being of a community. Maybe this is a naive pipe dream, but worth contemplating nevertheless, since creative opportunities nurture self-respect and move us beyond self-concern.

‘The whole is other than the sum of the parts … it has an independent existence.’  –  Kurt Koffka

Related links

More contagious than micro-organisms are fear and hopelessness.

Have you ever gone to your fridge in the middle of the night …

Pattern which connects – Gregory Bateson

Regarding the discovery of what we know, see the visionary work, Involution,  by Philippa Rees, a remarkable poetic adventure, with brilliantly researched additional historic commentaries.  A book to take on a Desert Island.

21 Comments

Filed under Blog

… cats …

I had various pets I cared for as a child, among them talking parakeets, hedgehogs, crows, snakes, mice, and dogs – but never cats. Actually I wanted a horse, but it never happened.

Cat, Yesh &SuzukiThen came Somerset, and I thought my young son would enjoy a cat. He did.

We called her Suzuki. I must have been into Zen … ‘Enjoy your problems’ – that kind of thing.

Cat, Suzuki with Buddha, bliss - Copy

As you can see, Suzuki had leanings to our stone ‘Budai,’ drawn to its lucky charm and its loving nature, easing her through tough moments … as you can also see.

Cat, Yeshen, Suzuki's lot

To catch mice in the ancient cottage we lived in was beneath her. She gifted us with other creatures. One summer, after returning from a trip, during which time our kind neighbour fed Suzuki, the wool fleece rug in our bedroom looked at first pristine and welcoming, but the moment my bare feet stepped on it my legs were jumped upon by armies of tiny, shiny armoured flees. Par chance I spotted a pack of post-it-notes on a Chester drawer and an ‘aha’ moment occured. I peeled off the pests amass from my skin with the sticky stripes, stomping about for a while, so none should be left out. I recommend sticky stuff for emergencies; it works, among other tricks I soon learned about.

Then came a time when we moved from home to home while in transit towards Surrey. In one such charmed place Suzuki distinguished herself as baby rabbit catcher. Never a killer, she plonked the fluffy bundles on the living room floor, where they sat, stunned and motionless … there you are, a present … We freed the bunny back into the neglected orchard of the property, but it soon returned, carried gently at the scruff of its neck by Suzuki. This happened innumerable times, likely with the same bunny, over and over. I wondered whether it was born into the wrong body, and was truly a cat – or our spayed cat was truly a rabbit in want of babies. We’ll never know. Unsure where we would end up, we left beautiful Suzuki with a woman who adored her. My son was upset, and only partly reconciled by a teddy friend.

Teddy 5

Cat, Amber136Entering a more settled phase in Surrey, we adopted a ginger rescue cat, Caspar, who appeared dour and joyless, most likely due to distressing experiences. My attempts to create rapport were unsuccessful. One day he simply disappeared, and I blame myself to this day. In due time, I searched and found Amber, a gorgeous tabby kitten. Slow in having her spayed, she produced offspring, giving birth in the living room, an unexpected and magical event, while I had friends over. The three in the litter were very different, in looks and temperament. The first and last born kittens found homes. Cat, Jetty and Tulips - lowerMy son thought it best to let the children, accompanied by their parents, choose, so we ended up with the middle born, sleek, black, and with a lovely tranquil nature. We named her Jetty. I linked with her in grief when Amber was sadly run over in the street a few years on.

Jetty lived to be 16. She died on my birthday a few years back. When Katia, a writer friend, posted her experiences with cats  –  it saddened me to hear the story of the sudden demise of her companion. Genie reminded me of Jetty, which sparked this post, in honour of her friendship.

Cat, crop - smaller - CopyHow to describe the deep bond we can form with an animal? Is it our need for acceptance, totally reciprocated from a creature that has all its needs for shelter, food and attention met? I think that’s a flatlander’s view. All meaningful connections happen beyond rational thought, in other spheres. Animals are sensitive to vibrations beyond our clock time awareness, often knowing of events before they happen, which is why they can warn and protect us. And because their senses are wide open to fine energies, as well as vulnerable to harmful ones, we, too, are moved to protect them.

We humans are urged to be clever and become quickly absorbed in the ongoing evolution of the rational mind. Animals can teach us to stay closer to nature, the most powerful text of life. And they maintain a strong link to dimensions we frequently lose, where all experiences mingle in the ever expanding pool of universal consciousness. With all our specialness, nature is indispensable to us. An animal friend whose intelligence detects moods and intentions, cats are particlularly good at this, can show us any moment, as in a mirror, our true state of being.

*      *      *

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” – Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

21 Comments

Filed under Blog