I dislike beginning another blog with a chant about being absent for a while, but there it is. I’ve not been here. I’ve been elsewhere.
But where is “elsewhere?”
I kind of like that word. In fact, if I ever incorporated a township, that’s what I’d name it – Elsewhere. And everyone would be invited to go there and take a mental vacation. And better yet, while you were there you could conjure up any type of reality you desired. The only limits would be the boundaries of your imagination.
Actually, I think we are all in Elsewhere every day.
The reason I say that is there is no possible way for us to occupy the same world at the same time, because all of our perceptions, all of our insights, all of the information that our senses are discerning, even if we’re standing next to one another, are, most probably, a bit different.
We live in different worlds.
It’s all about cognition. That mental process where we acquire knowledge and understanding through our senses by using our reasoning.
And our thoughts and our awareness of the world around us are bound to be a little bit different because it would be hard to imagine that we could experience the same event in exactly the same way. In part, because our conscious thought processes would pull in different and unique sensations. And, in part, because our past experiences have been different. It’s not likely that our interpretation of those sensations could be the same. Our reasoning processes have fundamental pre-programming variances.
Humm . . . . sounds strange doesn’t it.
When we say something tastes salty to someone, we expect that someone will have an understanding of that that means. But how would we know if they experienced salty the same way we do? The simple answer is that we don’t.
The same with vision. How would I know that my version of the color red matched your understanding of it or if even the color receptors in your eyes projected “red” to your brain’s interpretative centers in the same way my eyes and brain function? No way to know.
I read an interesting piece in the Atlantic the other day about cognition. And one of the most profound statements in the article was that “no brain scan has yet revealed a precise neural signature of consciousness.” So, despite all of our advancements in the medical sciences, no one can really measure what consciousness is, or even really where it arises from.
But the thrust of the article wasn’t about humans. It was about animals’, or other species’, cognition. Scientists are shooting holes in the ancient belief that consciousness, or awareness, or cognition, was divinely gifted only upon the human species. Why? Because more evidence keeps accumulating where other species demonstrate rational thought and deductive reasoning.
And just like we have no way to get inside another human’s mind to know how they are perceiving or experiencing the same event while standing next to us, we also have no way to know for sure what our animal counterparts in the Universe are experiencing.
We can, however, document action.
Such as the use of tools. Or coordinated activities.
So, we have the “Firehawk” raptor in Australia dropping bundles of flaming sticks from other fires into a neighboring landscape to drive its prey out into the open for easy pickings.
We have Crows dropping walnuts into traffic, allowing the cars to crack the nuts open, and then they swoop down and scoop up the flesh of the nut.
Grouper fish team up with eels to scare their prey out from the cover of the coral reefs; coordinating their hunt with sophisticated head signals.
Wasps have evolved large eyes, apparently to observe social cues, and some wasp species even learn the facial features of their buddies.
Honeybees can be taught to recognize abstract concepts like what similar objects are and the absence of something, thus, what equals zero.
Octopuses can use their tentacles to open jars. To get the prize inside, or just out of curiosity.
Even simple structured bacteria have chemical sensors on their external membranes, and they will flee from dangerous chemicals. Humans might wish to replicate this behavior, or quit spraying the dangerous chemicals everywhere to begin with.
And none of us has to be in a laboratory environment to witness the complex behavior of larger species such as primates, dogs, elephants, dolphins, whales, etc.
All of these species are exhibiting rational thought or deductive reasoning far beyond what anyone could label as being “instinctive” behavior. They have comprehension. They have reasoned through experience. They have learned. That’s cognition. Not instinctual action.
Funny thing about that word “instinct.” We tend not to apply this word describing fixed patterns of behavior to ourselves. We prefer to use the word intuition when we take action in response to stimuli below the level of conscious awareness.
Fun stuff to contemplate.
So just how much are other species like us? And how much are we like them? And how would we ever truly know?
I’ve been in Elsewhere. How about you 🙂
Photo: Mother and child Javelinas, Who can say what is going through their minds? Is mothering behavior instinctual? Does the child learn to feed, flee, and fight from observation and experimentation? Do they feel love for each other? I think that they think and feel a lot, have conscious awareness and, yes, even spirit. I was in Elsewhere when I captured this pic 🙂