Curiosity killed cat essay - essays on citizenship









curiosity killed cat essay

curiosity killed cat essayCuriosity killed cat essay -A childhood memory surfaced: Thwaites recalled that once, when he was small, he had tried to eat a houseplant using only his mouth. The shaman educated Thwaites on the histories of animism and totemism.” (Norton), the primatologist Frans de Waal bridles at our self-absorption.Thwaites had finished his toaster three years before. Once funds had been secured for his project (“The Committee thought that this was a wonderfully engaging idea,” the trust replied), Thwaites began to consider what kind of animal he’d like to be. Elephants were big, he reasoned, and, if he could build an elephant exoskeleton, he could climb inside it and lumber around, eating grass and living in the moment.We could learn, he thinks, from animals’ eager sensuality.We know about echolocation, he points out, only because, to some degree, “scientists did try to imagine what it is like to be a bat and did in fact succeed.” You can’t cross the species barrier but, by bumping up against it, you can learn things. Coetzee’s novel “Elizabeth Costello,” the eponymous protagonist delivers a lecture about “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?She pointed out that, for much of human history, people have made art and enacted rituals designed to cross the human-animal barrier.Reading Heidegger convinced Thwaites that, to inhabit the mental life of a goat, he would need to relate to his surroundings in a goatlike way.In a classic 1974 essay called “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?Since one of the project’s goals was to escape the existential worry of being a person, Thwaites needed not just a smaller animal but a less intelligent one—an animal whose mental life would be simpler and more untroubled than his own.Although the toaster never actually made toast—a few crucial components proved too difficult to build—it was, in all other respects, a success. He thought it must be wonderful to live in Noggin’s eternal present—to smell the grass, the wind, and the water without worrying about the future, the past, the meaning of life, or the inevitability of death. A few days later, Thwaites sent a grant application to the medical-humanities office at the Wellcome Trust, in London.The foxes were harvesting dew-laden crane flies from the grass with their tongues. He found that the flies were fuzzy, then slimy, and tasted of vanilla.De Waal agrees with Nagel—he thinks it’s impossible for any animal to fully comprehend another’s .Instead of constructing an exoskeleton or an artificial stomach, he just starts acting like an animal.For Thwaites, human personhood is stressful, absurd, and—worst of all—narcissistic: “even the Queen has worries,” he writes, despite being “born into a life of the utmost privilege and prestige.” By becoming a goat, Thwaites hopes to escape from his own egotistical anxiety—a pessimistic idea, when you think about it, since it implies that, as Thwaites puts it, “to be human is to worry.”Foster has the opposite problem.An urban fox will “carry on being foxy, whereas thoroughly urbanized humans are in danger of not being optimally human,” Foster writes.He thinks that personhood is a form of self-imposed dullness and yearns for the vivid openness of animality.Heath, despite himself, was delighted by the naturalness of Thwaites’s gait. At the Royal Veterinary College, Thwaites helped autopsy a goat.To make himself that powerful, a massive, bulldozer-like exoskeleton would be required; the sound of the engine and the smell of gasoline would distract from animalistic bliss.Saltwhite crumbling mush of corpse: smell, taste like raw white turnips.”In these pastoral and sensual portrayals of the animal self, different critiques of the human self are embedded.On a warm day, a tree is “the helical shape of the scent vortex that pulls dust up into the canopy”; on a cold one, it becomes “a low hump of tart lichen with an indistinct chimney.” Approaching a dead animal is like walking deeper into a building.curiosity killed cat essayIn “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing.To Foster’s way of thinking, the people in those houses, watching “East Enders” over their blandly globalized dinners of pizza, pad thai, and aloo gobi, were living nowhere in particular.Unable to augment his hearing, Foster trained his nose.Now fifty-three, he has written, co-written, or edited thirty-four books, among them a philosophical text about human dignity and bioethics, and a travelogue about his search for the Ark of the Covenant.Bats and human beings almost certainly have something in common—at a minimum, they share the joyous sensation of being awake and in motion or, as she puts it, being alive as “a body-soul.” Isn’t that enough to give us a meaningful window into bat life?De Waal is an admirer of the biologist Jakob von Uexküll, who, in the early twentieth century, coined a term, includes forests lit with ultraviolet light.The foxes are “the real East Enders,” because they “know that there’s a mouse nest under the porch at number 17A and bumblebees by the cedar decking at number 29B,” and are exploring and hunting on these particular streets.But he thinks it’s still worth trying to imagine another animal’s point of view, even if our efforts will ultimately fail.Instead, he went online and bought a bottle of cellulase—the enzyme that rumen bacteria use to break down grass in the first place.“A dead hedgehog is the shape of hedgehog, then the shape of green scent, then the shape of tripe, then the shape of sweet, then the shape of pork scratchings, then the shape of beetle.”Foster brought his eight-year-old son, Tom, into the sett with him and, badgers being social creatures, they explored the forest together. We rocked in our cradle, the roots around us straining and creaking like the timbers of a rolling ship.After his experiment in badger life, Foster began spending nights as an urban fox.In our efforts to imagine animal minds, there will always be a tension between sympathetic imagination and rational skepticism.With an ardency worthy of George Eliot, he concludes, “We have acutely It’s probably natural to see animals as our complements—to imagine that they are what we aren’t.In “Being a Beast” (Metropolitan), Foster takes a more direct approach than Thwaites.James Joyce, in writing “Ulysses,” took a more sensual approach.Thwaites’s toaster was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum for its permanent collection. Thwaites asked himself these questions and observed Noggin as commuters streamed past.The origin stories of Goat Man and Badger Man hail, respectively, from these Tolstoyan and Joycean traditions.Thwaites explained his plan to Alison Kingston-Smith, the leader of the Herbivore Gut Ecosystems lab at Aberystwyth University. The goat-gut microorganisms, she explained, “aren’t altogether benign.” Thwaites decided to skip the microbiome.Soon afterward, a Scandinavian shaman advised Thwaites to focus on “an animal that’s near to you in terms of your shared environment.” An Englishman has no business being an elephant, she said; he should be a sheep or a goat. curiosity killed cat essay Without a goat’s strong front legs and flexible musculature, a person undertaking goatlike movements, such as galloping or leaping to the ground head first, would be badly hurt.For Tolstoy, the problem with people is that they’re marooned in their egos.Foster grew to like his underground home—especially the “place at the end pressed into the shape of my body.” On rainy days, he savored the immersive and newly legible smells of wet earth. Foster and his cub managed to sleep—they found a way to be at home in the woods. (They heard them and tried to approach them, but to no avail.) Six months later, they returned to their sett. The walls, Foster writes, were like “jaws”; earthworms, drawn to their body heat, wriggled out of the soil “like hairy tongues.” Unnerved, Foster fled back to civilization, bringing with him this image of the ultimate mystery and inaccessibility of badger life.Perhaps we should bend in the direction of sympathy.“Being a Beast,” especially, is about the exercise of the sympathetic imagination: the book is an atonement for a lifetime of “ontological snobbery,” of “belief in a hierarchy of being” which, Foster writes, “made me an insufferable little shit for years.” In one of his many past lives, Foster was a hunter who, flush with cash from his work as a barrister, took the train to the North of England to hunt stags. He thought that, in hunting deer, he might learn about them.Years were wasted, he writes, in the search for an “epiphanic Wordsworthian bloodfest” before he realized his error.Tolstoy’s animals teach us to be good; Joyce’s teach us to be alive.He agreed to work on some prosthetic goat limbs and suggested some stretching exercises. He marvelled at the four compartments of the goat stomach and learned that the largest one, the rumen, contains bacteria that turn grass into a fermented and digestible stew.When Thwaites went to South Africa, however, and saw some elephants, he realized that a full-grown elephant was strong enough to knock over a tree.“If I had to pick one word for the badger’s experience, it would be smelled something: the citrusy piss of the voles in their runs within the grass; the distantly maritime tang of a slug trail, like a winter rock pool; the crushed laurel of a frog; the dustiness of a toad; the sharp musk of a weasel; the blunter musk of an otter. A wood mouse, displaced from a flooded or crumbled tunnel, scrambled in and hunched, shivering, in the crook of Tom’s knee.Thwaites didn’t realize that he had a rival, but he did.He told Heath that he hoped to acquire a set of prosthetic goat legs and, upon them, gallop across the Swiss Alps.There’s a lot you can’t see at badger level, six inches above the ground (or under it), and so badgers rely on other senses; it’s believed, for example, that they can hear the bristles of an earthworm plowing the dirt.It’s hard to say when Charles Foster first considered becoming an animal, but a good guess would be a warm October night sometime in the nineteen-eighties.“I need to change my context,” he resolved, “to the extent that somehow I look at a chair and don’t automatically associate it with sitting.” He would have achieved goathood when he could see a word without reading it—or, more important, “look at a(nother) goat and think of it as another person, like me.”Next, Thwaites turned to the goat body.Along the way, he catalogued the environmental devastation caused by humanity’s determination to toast en masse—a vast crime against nature committed in the name of breakfast. Was the making of toasters—or other wry statements on the absurdity of modern life—a good use of his time on earth?“Really, to want to become a goat is pretty standard,” Thwaites concludes, in “Goat Man: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human” (Princeton Architectural Press). To understand it, he began spending time at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, a pastoral facility, in Kent.There are, broadly speaking, two approaches to writing about animals.“The words ‘ horse’ applied to me, a live horse, seemed to me as strange as ‘my land,’ ‘my air,’ or ‘my water,’ ” he thinks.Foster is or has been a veterinarian, a lawyer, a newspaper columnist, a lecturer in medical ethics at the University of Oxford, and an adventurer.Foster was walking home from dinner at an East End pub when he noticed two foxes in a park. curiosity killed cat essay It wasn’t sympathy for animals, per se, that made Foster stop hunting; rather, it was politics.Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that Blog A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language.Meanwhile, to understand what it might mean to “be” a goat (or, for that matter, to “be” anyone), Thwaites began reading the philosopher Martin Heidegger, who argued that our selfhood resides not in our language-based thoughts but in the interplay of our skills, habits, and moods.The clearheaded directness of animals is a remedy for that self-obsession.Still, there’s something solipsistic about looking at other creatures and seeing a reflection of ourselves.On cold, dry mornings, smells huddle close to their sources and the scent-world is low and compact. (“Breast-high scent,” as hunters put it.) When it’s damp, the scent-world grows three-dimensional.In 1886, Leo Tolstoy published “Strider,” a story told from a horse’s point of view. He imagined that horses, unencumbered by human vanity, would see the world in a clearer, calmer, and more honest light.When Achilles, in the Iliad, learns that his best friend, Patroclus, has been killed, Homer compares him to a lion who’s realized that a hunter has taken his cubs: “Coming back too late, he grieves, and following the track of the man, he goes out and searches the mountains to find him, for a bitter anger has seized him.” Where human emotions are familiar, animal emotions can feel fresh, strange, strong, and unmediated.“In fact, historically speaking, it’s almost odder to Thwaites is an artist with an engineer’s soul, and he approached becoming a goat through the lens of problem-solving. From a goat-behavior expert named Alan Mc Elligott, Thwaites learned that goats are relatively relaxed and resilient creatures who are slaves to hierarchy—good and bad news for his prospective life as a goat.Heath, who happens to have a doctorate in zoology, pointed out that goats and people are built differently.Thwaites thought, first, of adding the goat’s grass-digesting microbiome to his own through a fecal transplant.“I lay in a backyard in Bow, foodless and drinkless, urinating and defecating where I was,” he writes, “treating as hostile the humans in the row houses all around—which wasn’t hard.” One night, while pawing through the garbage, he noticed televisions flickering in nearly every house; by his count (counting, of course, not being a very foxy behavior), sixty-four out of the seventy-three households watching TV were watching the same show.“Even the term grates on me,” he writes, “since it lumps millions of species together by an absence, as if they were missing something.” Instead of comparing animals to ourselves, he argues, we should recognize that every animal is an animal in its own way.Pleased with the elegance of this solution, he booked a flight to Switzerland, and arranged a rendezvous with a goatherd.An eyeless tick’s includes not just the smell of butyric acid, which wafts from mammalian skin, but the years-long wait for a moment of succulent opportunity.To learn how to move like a goat, he began meeting with Glyn Heath, a prosthetist at the University of Salford, near Manchester.One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.For Joyce, the problem is that people are sleepy, numb, and incurious.,” the philosopher Thomas Nagel concluded that, because the experience of using echolocation is unlike “anything we can experience or imagine,” we can never really know what being a bat feels like; the best we can do is imagine it by analogy, comparing echolocation, inaccurately, to hearing or seeing.He would use cellulase in his artificial goat rumen. curiosity killed cat essay Thwaites had finished his toaster three years before. Once funds had been secured for his project (“The Committee thought that this was a wonderfully engaging idea,” the trust replied), Thwaites began to consider what kind of animal he’d like to be. Elephants were big, he reasoned, and, if he could build an elephant exoskeleton, he could climb inside it and lumber around, eating grass and living in the moment. curiosity killed cat essay

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