ANIMAL IDENTITYVersion 1.0 Chapter 8
So, for animals, what is identity – what is constant, what is security, 'what am I?'.
BASIC SELF-IDENTITYI obviously have no proof, but i suggest for animals, being in touch with the taste and smell, with the inside warmth and vitality, and the feel of their own bodies from the inside, is a very intimate sense of being. This feeling is, i believe, central to an animals identity.
Smell, breath and taste stimulate and are regulated by the lower brain. These basic senses existed long before animals developed eyes and ears. Animals are far more in touch with and reliant on their lower brain. I feel sure this connection with the lower brain has a far greater significance than i can describe, experts in the field would know more.
Added to this internal self awareness, animal identity involves their territory and usually a deep unquestioned sense of belonging and social confirmation with their partners or social groups. All these factors have remained unchanged, even in modern times.
MODERN STRESSThe world is a terribly insecure place for animals. And apart from being eaten alive, hunger and cold; for the last 100 years it's been even more difficult.
Humans have become very loud and smelly, overpowering senses which are totally essential to many animals survival. Firework nights, road works, beat music, helicopters and recently, air blowers, are all terrifying. Night lights confuse the rhythm of life. The skies and oceans are no longer safe refuges. Homes and territories are destroyed with tarmac and concrete. Human rubbish dumps used to be so nourishing, but have now become plastic and poisoness. The list could last for pages.
Animals have experienced arguably more disorientation in the last hundred years than humans have. The sheer immensity of new problems they have now is unimgainable. How have any survived? How do they manage it?
Animals are not lost in abstract thought about their wants and needs. If they could analyse the reasons for their present disorientation, they would go crazy with the injustice, grief and worry of it all. In the face of such sensless tyranny, humans would become dysunfunctional loonies, terrorists or junkies.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING AN ANIMALAnimals have only few hopes for tomorrow or regrets for yesterday. Life is immediate, and everything they want, like a child, has to be now. To have survived their billion year old battle against angst, hunger, cold and pain, animals needed to be aware and present now, every day, sometimes all their waking hours, and to sense the world with all their senses.
So, animals have at least one big advantage over us: they are not lost in abstract thought about their wants and needs.
And animals have two different sensory systems for being aware of the outside world now: focusing and panoramic; their lives depend on alternating between these two. They are so familiar with this interchange, that they can swop between these two modes spontaneously.
I repeat: Just notice how any blackbird pulling at a worm, continually checks for predators.
And I repeat: Even when dozing, the hare turns his ears open for sounds, and sleeping birds have one eye open.
And in the same way as : how we sense our world, defines our relationship with it, and how we understand it and oursleves – an animals’ sensory abilities and perception, defines their relationship with their world and their identity in it.
An animals experience of focusing must result in a feeling similar to ours, of being an active subject doing things to objects.
But throughout evolution, going panoramic has been the unquestionable and natural way to switch off, stop doing everything and be still and receptive for a moment.
Panoramic sensing was probably only able to evolve, because of the absence of abstract thinking.
Sensing like this is the most efficient and direct connection with the outside world. It evolved specifically for that reason. And for animals, this is a constant reminder of how it feels to be now and connected with everything around them.
So in the few moments animals have, when they can just doze and don't need to fight for survival, they are far more practised than we are, with letting go, turning off, and just being – without having any wants and desires. They can turn off focusing at will, and so control the human problems of closed-minded concentration, vicious circles and obsessions.
So when dozing, they have far more chance of success than most humans, with feeling contentment, self sufficiency in their own bodies, and having an underlying sense of peace in and with the world.
And this all belongs to an animals experience and sense of self-identity.
THE HUMAN LACK OF BALANCEModern day humans feel and see their body and the world around them quite differently to other warm blooded animals. But, this experience of our bodies and the world outside, was also our human reality. We have changed at least 150 million years of warm blooded habit .. relearnt it overnight – with our brilliant new creative scientific understanding of life... all good!... but where is the balance?
We'd have imagined by adding abstract thought to our basic sensory abilities, we would be far more successful than animals. For a short three million years it seemed to be working out well. But suddenly we seem near to destroying our environment and ourselves.
Simultaneously our modern trained and educated, focused and often brilliant ability to handle abstract thinking, has completely usurped, blocked out and overpowered, our panoramic abilities.
Our culture hasn't even got a name for panoramic sensing. The lack of a name always indicates a lack of recogniton. Our culture has not recognised this, probably because animal trainers and researchers are only interested in studying how animals focus and learn, and to what extent they can develop memory and abstract thought.
Ironically, we wanted to know if and how animals can learn our human abilities – and all the time, there was so much we could have been learning from them, and how they use their panorama senses.