Squirrels’ movements are rapid and abrupt. The ways in which their bodies move—with an on-again, off-again jerkiness—suggest a staccato, high-speed replay of stop action video. When the creatures display their odd—but altogether natural—behavior, I sense they may be on high-dose methamphetamines. Perhaps acorns and pine nuts, two of their favorites foods, are flush with the ingredients of illicit drugs. Or, maybe they belong to a large society of addicted animals whose dealers regularly supply them with hallucinogenic substances. That society of addicts apparently includes very small birds, like sparrows and Carolina wrens. They are among numerous types of birds whose motions mimic squirrels’ frenetic, quivering energy.

If a squirrel—or a bird—were writing about its observations of humans, the description might offer the possibility that people tend to be slow, lethargic, and deliberate. They could suggest that humans behave as if they had consumed large quantities of narcotics; opium, heroin, codeine, oxycontin.

I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.

~ Socrates ~

It may not be merely a matter of perspective. It could be a matter of platform, as well. While different species share many similarities, their differences overwhelm their commonalities. Most humans seem to firmly believe in our superior intellects; people rule from far atop the animal kingdom, we think. But our perspective of perceived superiority may be an outgrowth of our cerebral blindness to what constitutes thought and deliberate actions. While we tend to assume instinct explains animal behaviors, we simply may be intellectually unable to comprehend extraordinary complexities that may underlie them. Perhaps the equivalent of deliberate “thoughts” take place in the brains of squirrels and birds and speckled trout. Or maybe our limited mental capacity precludes us from understanding that “thoughts” are not necessarily the sole province of brains. The tissues surrounding bones and joints and organs in the bodies of members of the other elements of the animal kingdom may function in ways reminiscent of the roles of the human brain. And, for that matter, members of the plant kingdom—skilled practitioners of photosynthesis—may be far more intellectually sophisticated than humans can ever hope to be. Humans’ slow, dull, severely limited capacity to truly understand natural magic quite possibly limits our attainment of parity with other animals and with plants. While we view ourselves as the highest level masters of the universe, the creatures with whom we share the space may well consider us malicious, troublesome parasites.

To be forgotten, is to die a little.

~ Aung San Suu Kyi ~


Today is special in ways only the remembered know. The forgotten struggle to crawl out of an urn that matters to no one. Tomorrow, though, may be bathed in the embrace of memories.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Imbalance

  1. Meg, wouldn’t the ability to accurately and precisely decipher animals’ “thoughts” be exciting?

  2. kozimeg says:

    Interesting post John. Intriguing idea of what animals think of humans.

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