WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM ANIMALS

A Comparison of Survival Strategies

Animals have two ways of using their senses; focused and panoramic.

Focused sensory perception evolved to do things. It is about something that animals need or want. It is always selective, and therefore always limits a general awareness of all the other things which are happening.

Panoramic sensing is a form of receptive awareness but it is not passive, it is intensely active; animals' lives depend on it. Its primary use is to guard against danger; it makes life safe.

It evolved to notice all the changes and movements happening here: in the immediate environment  – and now: in the present moment. It is the natural way to be here and now.

Focusing evolved to coordinate our minds and bodies and do things. When panoraming as animals use it, it is not possible to think, do, or want anything at the same time. It is the natural way to stop wanting and thinking.

Watch how any blackbird pulling at a worm is constantly on the lookout for danger. And a hare's ears are always listening for danger when out foraging.

For animals, survival depends on coordinating their panoramic sense with all their focused activities. Both are fundamental and essential to life.

Predatory animals combine panoraming with focusing when searching for and wanting prey.

In its purist form as vulnerable animals use it to stay safe, panoraming is connected with fear. Modern humans have no such fears, we don't need to run away every time we see a cat or dog; but we've become indifferent. We hardly use our panoramic senses.

Humans secured their survival with their focusing abilities. The human survival strategy lacks a fundamental balance. And after an amazing million-year history of focusing for our survival, our one-sided strategy has now led us to a point of critical overload.

The Human Survival Strategy

By focusing our senses and thoughts, we humans have survived.

We could select ideas, focus on memories, repeat things and learn. And as we combined selected ideas, we became clever and creative. Humans processed, collected and communicated ideas quickly, and we soon learned to repeat an extraordinary number of tricks. And from hammering the first flint tools, to making fire, to constructing wheels, it was a remarkable story, wonderfully creative, and life slowly became more enjoyable.

Then when people developed beliefs, they gave meaning to our lives and became the central priority for our sense of reality, identity, purpose, and even security, hope and satisfaction. They became our central focus points.

And it didn't really matter much what we believed in, as long as everyone in our social group unquestioningly believed the same things. As with most other animals, our will to survive depended on a sense of belonging to a group. And for us humans, this meant the mutual affirmation of the abstract ideas and beliefs of our tribe.

So we retold the stories of our Gods, and repeated all the things which gave us pleasure and security. And gradually, as our cultural knowledge increased, we wanted more and the momentum of life increased.

And the wheels will always turn faster; there will always be an exponential need to train all our focusing skills in the future. Our modern human, early training of focusing through reading and writing and later studying specialised subjects, correlates with this.

Insecurity and Overfocusing

But over the last few centuries, as modern man explored his abstract abilities, we slowly began to question our beliefs. This was the beginning of a new era, and now we have lost the mutual affirmation of our social group.

In modern times, the beliefs which were central to our understanding of life, the ones which gave our tribe identity and security ... nowadays, it is exactly this level of abstract thought: beliefs, ideas, and opinions, which leads socially to division – and individually to insecurity.

Regardless of our modern material security, we are psychologically insecure. Perhaps we cope admirably, but all the time we are coping with a form of insecurity, which no other animal or pre-modern human has ever experienced or even imagined.

And we compensate for this insecurity with our species' tried and tested survival strategy, our human habitual rut – focusing. Focusing with our senses and our minds on a vast range of new products, entertainments, and ideas to believe in, want and want more of.

And anyone with a heart must focus on fighting the greed and selfishness which is causing so much suffering on our planet. So there seems to be no way out of the vicious circle; even in trying to save the world, our survival seems to depend on focusing.

But my point isn't to stop focusing on fighting greed or anything else. My point is that in order to survive, all other animals need to coordinate or alternate all their focused activities with periods of pure panoramic sensing.

How we sense the world determines how we experience and understand it. Panoramic sensing is a missing dimension of our experience of life. Humans are limiting their understanding.

What we can learn from animals

For all other species, survival depends on the balanced use of all their sensory faculties.

In order for animals to use their panoramic senses, it's necessary for them to stop everything they are doing, wanting, and thinking – everything they are focusing on. Panoramic awareness is the direct, natural, tried and tested, counterbalance to focusing, and the cure for overfocusing.

Panoramic sensing is useless for wanting, thinking, or doing – its usefulness is that it makes wanting and doing safe.

Human children are born with this way of being in touch with and sensing the world. With our early education in focused feeling and thinking, we undermine our panoramic abilities before they even start to develop.

We must balance our increasing stimulation and early education of focused reading, writing, and thinking, with an early education and encouragement of the panorama mode.

We must play at 'going on the lookout' with our children. Watching for movements all around and out of the corners of our eyes like blackbirds – listening-out for dogs and humans like a hare does – and smelling on the wind for coffee or food cooking, just as the hedgehog will smell for apples and beetles.

Chapter One develops the practical and psychological sides of panoramic sensing.

Chapter Three explores the cultural and sociological aspects of overfocusing, and its exponential influence on modern life.

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