Friday, September 3, 2010

Unknowable

Monkey adopts Kitten: A long tailed macaque monkey adopted a kitten in Bali, Indonesia


In Bali, this wild macaque has apparently adopted a stray kitten. Aside from the neat factor, (which is incredibly high) this sort of thing highlights the the unknowable nature of the natural world.

Its hard to understand the motives of other humans, even those that are figments of the writerly imagination, but animals? Fergedabout it! My first assumption is that the monkey, a male, is caring for the kitten as he might a baby, out of love, or emotional need or something human and understandable. But, really, who knows? This monkey has a whole inner world that we can not even begin to guess at.

During this summer's vacation, our family went on a whale watch off the Northwest tip of Newfoundland. We encountered a pod of Orcas that were new to the whale watch thing, and these whales spent over an hour inspecting us and our small-seeming boat. They nudged its hull, "spy hopped" at the bow to get a better view, blew their seafood breath up into our faces, lingered just beneath the water-- less than 6 feet away-- watching. It was easy to imagine some sort of kinship between us, intelligent mammal to intelligent mammal. Then they took off, churned the water 100 yards away and returned to the ship with a dead seal, all but turned inside out in their jaws. When the gazing and nudging and eye-to-eye continued, there was a different feel to it. There was no knowing the minds of these creatures. We'd imagined we were forging some sort of bond but the whales, well, for all we know, they were trying to figure out how if we would be lunch!

*

We, humans, imagine that if we could teach an animal (perhaps, a gibbon!) to communicate using sign language or symbols on a board or ESP or whatever, we could know this animal, discover an intelligence, thought process and soul much the same as our own.

This is a pretty huge assumption. It seems these experiments tell us more about ourselves than they ever could about the animals we are studying.

I think I prefer the mystery, the knowing there are ways of being so different from my own that I can only glimpse them momentarily, in the calm black oval of a whale's eye, for instance, or this oddball macaque.

Monkey adopts Kitten: A long tailed macaque monkey adopted a kitten in Bali, Indonesia

*whale picture us from National Geographic (Camera died on the whale watch!)

2 comments:

Ariel Swan said...

So true - and I am wondering how that kitten is feeling about the whole thing. I have been watching interspecies communication a lot lately with chickens and my siamese. The chickens love the cats - but also kind of bully them. Simone wants to play with the chickens (really play- not play hunt) but they don't seem to get it - although they are very curious when she rolls on the ground and shows them her belly. She wants them to chase her - and I even think she wants to sit with them in their napping bunch - but they run away - simone herself being a pig piler. It is so wierd. I wonder what she is thinking - but you are right - maybe I put too much humanity in her - maybe she really just wants to eat them.

Jen Brubacher said...

Fascinating ideas (and amazing photos!) You're so right. We hardly know each other and we at least can speak the same languages. The animals? Who knows.

I just read a great sci fi book about this sort of thing. The first human-chimpanzee chimera was created and everyone was trying to figure out if she was human or not. If she could "feel."