Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sad -- A Universal Language Known to Human and Animal

(Photos:  1-- Loner goose, Danny. Round peg in a square hole. 2-- Brad, Wiggly and Honker. Happy and high status because they have each other.)

The Emotional Lives of Animals

Below is an interesting article that spells out in scientific terms what so many of us already know and observe.

That most animals have conscious awareness similar to that of humans.

Although the piece does not emphasize emotions per se, it should go without saying that conscious awareness of environment, self and others would naturally include emotional response, attachment and affect.

While some might think that language is necessary for the recognition and expression of emotions,  human babies do not possess the skills of language, but for certain experience emotional lives.

Animals do not possess the skills of human language, but many have languages unto their own species. But, even for those solitary species who do not readily communicate in language to their own kind, there is still the experience of emotion. 

Emotions require conscious awareness and abilities of decision making, but they do not require the skills to understand nor necessarily communicate them. (Indeed, many humans have difficulty with emotional recognition and expression, hence the need for psychiatry.)

The main reason why non-human animals are subjected to so much tyranny at the hands of humans is not because they cannot experience emotions as we do, but because they are unable to communicate those emotions and conscious awareness in language and manner we can readily understand and/or admit to. 

Imagine how different the world would be were animals ever to develop means to communicate in manner and language we could understand?

It would compel us to entirely new standards for ethics and morality.

Yesterday, in a communication, a friend mentioned the word, "sad."

A simple, three letter word and yet a labyrinth of complexity.

What is sad, exactly?

So many things swirling about.......Difficult to sort out or understand. Even harder to change.   Reminds a little of a Judy Collins song.   "So many things I would have done, but clouds got in the way....."

Or maybe sad is indecision and/or feeling of fading options.  Regret of things past and fear or anxiety of things future.   So, one tries to stay in the moment.  But, moment is swirling combination of past, present and future, somehow all adding up to that simple, three letter, all-inclusive term, "sad." 

Last night, I went to Harlem Meer to spend time with the ducks.

The "loner" goose was with them.

There is a young goose who has been at the Meer for about a month now. I named the goose, "Danny." 

Sometimes I see Danny and sometimes I don't.

But, he was there last night and came upon the embankment with the mallards and three domestic ducks to partake in some offered treats.

The ducks were all noisy, raucous  and clamoring about. 

It is quite extraordinary, the many different sounds ducks make and the amazingly complex language they possess and share.

Most talkative among them last night were the three domestic ducks, Brad, Wiggly and Honker. 

This is a fairly recent development as for almost the year that she has been at the Meer, Wiggly never opened her mouth.   But, these days, Wiggly rarely shuts up. I believe this has something to do with her growing feelings of confidence and status at Harlem Meer.   She, Brad and Honker are the new "Bradley Brigade" and each one now celebrates and puts into action, their higher status among the Harlem Meer waterfowl.  Much of that "status" the three domestic ducks project through actual language.

But, watching Danny, the lone goose among the ducks was, well, kind of sad.

He was the round peg in a square hole, so to speak.

I imagine the young goose hangs with the ducks because of a sense of security and safety.

But, it's so obvious that Danny doesn't understand nor "speak" the ducks' language. 

Rather, he appears unnerved and confused by the constant chattering and frenetic movements around him. 

After some time, Danny moved further along the embankment and eventually took up a solitary position near the edge of the lake looking out over the empty water.

I can only guess at the circumstances that caused this young goose to be on his own without family and flock.

But, there is no question that Danny feels their loss and is now forced to "wing it" among those who, while not posing any harm or threat to him, are nevertheless light years away despite being all around him.

Round peg in a square hole.

Despite being similar species, there is no way a lone Canada goose connects with or truly fits into flocks of mallards.  They simply do not speak the same language.

It was sad seeing that last night -- even though I suspect Danny can and will survive among the flocks of alien ducks.

Emotionally however, Danny is lost and isolated.

Perhaps more than anything else, sad is synonymous with loss. 

And that is true for both humans and animals as the emotional lives of each are more similar and entwined than they are separate and different.  -- PCA


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