ANIMALS – PLAY, EGO AND MIRRORS

Mirrors

Since around 1850, with the industrial production of mirrors, our human ego – our self-image – has changed enormously.

When we consider how dependent the modern human on mirrors or looking at selfies, we realise that animal identity is completely different to our modern human sense of identity.

Very few animals can cope with mirrors, they are unnatural. Most attack or ignore their own mirror image. Youtube has lots of videos on this subject.

Research here is not complete. but so far we know that dolphins, elephants, crows, magpies, orcas, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and suprisingly, ants can recognise themselves spontaneously.

These are two extraordinary feline examples.

This cat, being amazed at his self-image, is wonderful (1.35 long) – the dawn of a new understanding of life.

Another cat and mirror experience is a real exception (0.28 long) – is Finn really in love with his mirror image, or does he think it's another cat?

Play and Ego

Groups of animals often play with each other. This is usually interpreted (maybe incorrectly) as a sort of instinctive training for practical life. However maybe they are just having fun, and experience 'wanting pleasure'.

There are many Youtube videos on crows, magpies, squirrels, racoons playing with things humans have left lying around. Give a dolphin a rubber ball and he will have fun.

Games with natural objects are rare. However one exception is otters juggling with stones. The game must date back before human times.

Some otters also build a long term attachment to their special stones. They carry their play stones in their pouches. Could this form of play and wanting pleasure, be the first step to worldly attachment and a sense of ego?

Otter Juggling Rocks (1:33) is good.
Also good is Close Up Of The Cute Stone Juggling Otter (1.10)
Is this sort of animal play in the natural world unique to Otters?

Here is a short section from 3.53 to 4.12 of an Eurasian Hoopoe turning a rock like a football.

There's also pleasure but maybe not real play, when the hippo and pig wallow in the mud bath, or the hen dust bathes in the sun – a forerunner of humans sunbathing or lying in the bathtub.

Self-Centred Emotions

Baby and adolescent elephants have temper tantrums (1.34mins).
Do any other animals?

Then there are a number of aggressive small creatures, like geese and cocks who chase bigger animals like horses.

In it's all about courage, especially interesting are the crows 'playing' at winding up dogs – one upmanship. (9:17 long – watch only first 2.42 mins, then it gets irrelevant even silly.)

Selflessness
But don't be too hard on crows,
A Bodhisattva Crow is sharing food with a mouse (1.20) – Is there any other such clear example of selflessness in animals?

Notes
There are lots of animal videos on twitter#animals and twitter#animallovers

Please contact me about any special animal videos.

Parent page Animal Identity

Back to Chapter Three : Civilisation's Habitual Ruts