I’m an avid nature observer and it occurred to me the other day that I have never seen an obese squirrel, bird or other wild animal in my yard. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems that when one lives a wild life full of the constant urgency to locate food and shelter, the possibility of reflecting a state of sustained over indulgence in your appearance doesn’t seem possible.
It leads back to colorings of perception. When you see someone who is clearly obese, in olden times there were those that envied them – they clearly had the means to over indulge. Nowadays it seems more likely that the reaction would be judgmental – you’re lazy, you don’t exercise and take care of yourself etc.
I often think that wild life are never plagued by the stress of leisure. Each day they know they have to eat and have a place to sleep. They are clear goals with no alternate options for slacking off. As for us, for the most part our food and shelter needs are in place, so what then? Leisure time can be filled in a variety of ways, but there are still countless times in our lives when we while away precious time with no sense of purpose at all. At times when I watch the squirrels it is I who envies them.
Yet when you consider it, the homeless face the arduous task of finding food and shelter every day. They aren’t things they have the opportunity to take for granted. Yet although their goals of the day are of far greater urgency than mine, I never envy them.
When observing things, both living and constructed etc. we invariably never resist the temptation to give it a name. Typically the name has some relation to the properties of the object. This is very much the case in formal scientific names for plants, animals and microscopic organisms etc. Not only does it give you a sense of what it is, but also what family it belongs to.
It isn’t only limited to living things. Even with constructed items a sense of family comes into play. A bowie knife, a pairing knife and a carving knife are all knives. A 3D printer, an ink jet printer and a laser jet printer are all printers. Whether living or not, we subconsciously group things according to their commonality.
Perhaps there is a comfort in making something less alien by linking it to something we are already familiar with. Nothing ever seems to be left out by itself. Even if the relation to something else is distant, it is nonetheless linked.
When naming people we are always linked by our family name. Sometimes that automatically comes with awe and respect, sometimes not so much. Those with no known family are typically given new names when adopted by a family thereby also being “linked”.
We are practically obsessed with commonality in our naming conventions. Yet so often when interacting with one another or with the environment around us that same inclination towards seeking commonality is all too often vigorously suppressed.
I dug an old microscope my father had out of the closet and set it up. I went and collected some water from a local pond and slid it under the scope to have a look. At first it was fascinating lifting the veil back on a world few of us ever explore. Strange creatures with multiple feet and antennae appeared like manifestations from sci-fi novels.
The longer I gawked at the strange and unusual world beneath the scope a disturbing revelation set in. The frequent spasms I was witnessing were the organisms gasping for breath. I was in effect watching them writhe in agony, fighting for every last breath before being consumed by death. A death that I had caused by meddling in a world to which I was an alien. A world that I didn’t take the time to investigate and understand before disturbing its cocoon to satisfy my own selfish curiosity and insatiable appetite for something new to watch.
And yet even with this realization, I was still able to toss the water down the drain when I was bored and ready to do something else and simply walk away.