But as soon as you think about the comparatively higher and more complex animals, like birds and mammals, then brain complexity gets such that to a lesser or greater degree, intellect and the ability to think and figure things out has to be taken into consideration.
I strongly suspect that birds and mammals develop a personal worldview mythology that explains for their satisfaction all that they see and experience daily.
Further, for those animals that create a direct or indirect connection with individuals they must additionally evolve a personal mythology that’s understandable within their larger worldview that puts us in their Large Picture. This mythology, their POV is going to be grossly incorrect naturally, but they don’t know that. In all honesty can not comprehend the sum total of those experiences they discuss directly with human action and so to some degree or other they create a mythical worldview that somehow explains what humans do in their context. But, occasionally humans feature only indirectly and so their POV doesn’t actually involve humans in almost any shape, manner or form.
So the purpose of this little essay is to exemplify these critters (i.e. – birds and mammals) that interact directly or indirectly with people (in a good, indifferent, bad or god-awful manner) have a marginally human-centred mythology even when they aren’t conscious of it. Taking one specific animal as an example, consider another story of the possum.
I have a possum that visits my spine courtyard overnight. Presumably the possum has not spotted me; it being a creature of the night and I being a creature of the afternoon. Now presumably the possum searches around at night, foraging for food. It’s been an usually long and bitterly cold Australian winter here in the nation’s capital, Canberra, so, in compassion for a fellow life-form that has a far tougher life than that, I took to leaving out for it in the first evening an apple. In the morning after, it was gone – the apple that’s. Now I, as a smart individual, know all the facts of the matter. I buy an apple; I leave the apple out; the possum finds out the apple and eats it. However, I can’t help but wonder, by the perspective of the possum, what exactly does it make of the nightly present of an apple, an apple which looks where there’s no apple tree for miles around?
Some assumptions have been in order. If something out of the ordinary occurs, it makes an impression. I doubt whether the possum much ponders this simple fact of life. The tree it resides in exists day in and day out – nothing much to think about there. It is warm in the summer; cold in the winter; a few days it rains; most days it does not rain. But that daily apple has not been part and parcel of its worldview mythology – until today.
So, something new, beneficial but unexpected comes into play. Is it true that the possum down it to good luck, good luck, clean living, being in the perfect place at the right time, or does it feel stronger than that?
Now an apple appears for the first time on the floor it forages over – odd but strange things happen. An apple appears on the exact same area of earth every evening – the same area with no advantage of an apple tree. That’s not in keeping with the ordinary expectations and adventures of our possum. Since this isn’t something ordinary and natural within the possum’s worldview, then this must be something outstanding; this is something magical; this can be something amusing; this is something unnatural. Maybe there is a supernatural Possum Deity that appears after possums in times of demand, like in the wintertime when meals in general and apples particularly are few and far between.
And so our possum possibly develops this concept of something larger than the natural world it is used to.
But maybe it’s seen me from the seclusion of its tree put the apple down, in which case maybe I’m the Great Possum Deity. If it sees other people are they deities also, even though not possum deities?
Since this regularly occurring apple appears in roughly the same geographical place night after night, might our hungry possum attribute something extraordinary for this patch of (my) backyard, (its own) courtyard turf?
Now the possum’s perspective won’t be one based around language and it will not have the ability to communicate its worldview mythology into other possums. Rather its senses will be contingent upon its own five senses, most prominently vision in all probability. It wouldn’t have words for ground or ‘Sacred Site’, instead a mental image that this patch of earth is extra-special. This kind of image, instead of the words we would use, would not be out of the question.
Okay, you know and I understand there is no Possum Deity, nothing supernatural or mysterious is going on, there is not any Sacred Site. I understand what’s going on – some farmer, hundreds of miles apart sells their crop of apples to some company who hires a distributor who trucks them to Centurian and they wind up in that corporation’s local supermarkets. You know that, and I know that, but we can’t expect the possum to know that. Whether this possum communicates with fellow possums (not that it can), it isn’t likely to relate a story of a compassionate human buying an apple each day and leaving it out to be devoured by possums, far less have knowledge of the far away farmer, firm, supplier, truck, grocery store, and all the infrastructure that implies, etc..
It would be interesting to talk to that possum and discover exactly what its present worldview mythology is, even though that’s beyond our means. But, I’d wager that whatever it is, it is wrong! Still, let’s walk a mile in its own paws and attempt to view things like it would. That much we could do. I’ve attempted to do so, but the odds are I’m wrong oo. There is no true meeting of the minds here. Even if I came face-to-face together with the possum, I couldn’t converse with it; I could not convince it that its POV was incorrect.
The distinction is that in many cases we can convey that perspective to the others of our species.
The point today is when our companion mammals have a flawed POV of the worldview mythology, one that we know is wrong, but they don’t, one that may or may not comprise humans; do we people have in turn a flawed POV in regards to our worldview mythologies? The contrasts between mammals (like our possum) and humans and those collective worldview mythologies we all have might suggest that we too have some flawed perceptions about life, the universe and all that need further and continued exploration and elaboration. In that broader context, perhaps we can also have empathy with possums inasmuch as we also might have faulty worldview mythologies from the eyes of things superior to us.