Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Our Best Friends for100,000 Years

ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION, Temple Grandin, Harcoutbooks, 2006 (paperback) ... a ZINGER of a final thought!!!
"... wolves and people were together at the point where homo sapiens had just barely evolved from homo erectus...." approximately 100,000 years ago. ... "when wolves and people first started keeping company they were on a lot more equal footing than people are today. Basically, two different species with complimenary skills teamed together, something that had never happened before and has never really happened since. ... When you think about how different we are from other primates, you see how dog-like we are. ... Dog brains and human brains specialized: humans took over the planning and organizing, dogs took over the sensory tasks. Dogs and people coevolved and became even better partners, allies, and friends.

Maybe it's a quirk of mine, maybe not many other peole find this idea absolutely and utterly fascinating. I love the idea of coevolution with dogs -- and in a sense, we coevolved with other dometsticated animals; especially, probably, the horse which has been so important in human life. The thing is life is a web of inter-relationships. That's what ecology tells us in one way and another.
Grandin is not just throwing out her day dreams, she butteresses her assertions with paleological evidence as well as physiological and sociological. This book was not a great fun read because her style is plodding. Her co-author, Catherine Johnson, seems to have wisely chosen to preserve Grandin's voice which is colloquial with academic overtones but a bit stiff as one would expect the voice of a person who has fought hard to live with and understand her autism to be. The book has much, much, much of interest about other kinds of animals and how they perceive the world -- how much smarter they are than we give them credit for. After reading about Alex. the parrot, who not only was able to look in a mirror and ask what color he was, but also spontanuously spelled the word 'Nut" one will never disparagingly call anyone a "bird brain" again. That is only one of many astonishing facts related by Grandin.
I've known of Grandin since reading Oliver Sacks's long article about her in a Ner Yorker magazine many years ago. So I was happy to become acquainted this the thinking of a really remarkable woman.
Now I'm focused on finishing Derrick Jensen's ENDGAME -- more at a later point. And I've begun to try to understand Deng Ming-Dao's THE LIVING I CHING ... not so far afield as that might sound because I have been using the Wilhelm translation for about thirty years, and the Wing I CHING WORKBOOK for over fifteen years. The subject is huge -- so huge Confucius is said to have worn out seven copies of the book and he didn't even think he had the wisdom to begin writing commentaries until he was over 50. It has long been my "wisdom book" -- not something I write or talk about much because I am aware that this book and its philosophy is so ancient and so deep that I cann add nothing to it -- while it can add immesurably to my understanding of life ... in the broadest sense, not just human life but the cycles of earthly life.
So, appropriately, we come a-circle ... from my fascination with how man and beast evolved, to a grand complication of the most ancient wisdom to which we still have access. Basics ... One of the I Ching readings mentions an egg, the perfect shape, the container of life, and says, in effect, if you can understand this, you understand all. I don't begin to understand, but my desire to understand as much as possible is boundless and I hope it never fades.

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