Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Miracle We Take For Granted

When you work in near-total isolation (ie an industrial paint booth) you think alot and this is something I gave thought to today.

An animal knows basically what it gains from experience and a small amount of teaching from its mother but when it dies, as far as we know, its knowledge and experience dies with it. Animals can communicate basic emotions and limited information to each other ("danger"," go away", "food", "come here", "let's mate" etc.)

Not only can the human mind contain more information than we can gain in a normal lifetime (I have read in one book, Frank Tippler's The Physics of Immortality, that the human brain has a capacity for several centuries of memory -- which, incidentally, makes no sense from an evolutionary standpoint.) Our reasoning and imagining capacity is far beyond any animal that walks the earth.

Yet there is more.

There was a time when people mocked "book learning" as a useless waste of time, but reading and writing is a miracle in and of itself. When I pick up a book I can follow the thinking of the wise and foolish and learn from both. I can read words written 3,500 years ago (the Torah) or today (someone's blog). I can read some of men's greatest ideas and most foolish pipedreams. I can learn what went through the minds of people 500 years ago. I can go places that I will never physically go and which an animal living nearby could never conceive of. I share the fantasies and fears of a hundred different imaginations and perhaps add their imaginings to my own. In my mind I have walked in the London of Dickens, the frozen north of James Oliver Curwood, the streets of Minas Tirith of Tolkien, or flown to the stars with the writings of Robert Heinlein. I have marched with Roman Legions and fought dragons; I have done a thousand things I will probably never do.

I can also receive instruction from experts on just about anything you would want to know. I can be told how to cook a piece of meat or how to fix my car by someone I have never met. Writing is indeed a small miracle.

How about recording. Throughout history, most people's favorite singer was their mother whose voice put them to sleep at night and many written memories speak of their mother singing. Of course I have heard my mother sing, but virtually at any time I can hear the voices of the dead, Hank Williams, Karen Carpenter, Keith Green (a Gospel singer of the early 80s) or Elvis Presley, and their songs will never die and people a hundred years from now will know and love their voices. In the 1800s an elderly woman and go by and someone say "She was a beauty in her day" but the memory of that beauty would die along with those who actually saw it. Today I can watch a 1940s or 1950s, or even 1930s movie or look at an old photo and actually see the beauty that women who are now quite old once possessed.

The ability to pass such knowledge, thoughts and today even images and sounds from one generation to the next is a miracle in and of itself.

Do you ever wonder what goes through a dog's mind as he watches you read the evening paper and what he thinks you are doing?


Blogger Gayle said...

This is a very thought-provoking post... I love it! :)

Whenever I read a book I am aware that I am in the mind of another, and experiencing their imagination or their experiences, or possibly a little of both, depending on what I'm reading. History is my favorite. Also, historical novels.

What do my dog's think when I read the paper? I'll give it a shot:
"Why is she holding that thing in front of her face for? Is she hiding from me? Why is she ignoring me?" At least, that's what I think I would be thinking if I were a dog. Or "she's not eating that thing so what's it good for? She used to roll it up and swat me with it when I was a puppy and did poo-poo in the house, maybe I should leave her alone."

Well... you asked. :)

11:57 PM  
Blogger Lone Pony said...

I think about things like this too SR. I see miracles all around me. I can't say I've ever wondered what goes through a dog's mind, but I've watched horses and they seem to "speak" a universal language. Some of the fish I saw last week seemed to have expressions on their faces. I think it's interesting that animals play.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

I'm tellin ya- I think you and LP should get married. You guys think so much alike it's scary!

Very thought provoking post. If only they had movies during ancient Greece. I would love to have seen the Parthenon it it's full glory...

I think animals have more going on between their ears than we know. It is chauvanistic to believe that our species is the only one that can think. I know my dog is very intellegent, and remembers things. He also is very problem solving oriented (when he wants to get something, like the cat's food!).

9:40 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Animals can only pass on their "learning" through procreation/DNA/survival of thr fittest but humans also have to pass on wisdom and knowledge. Reading and writing is like our mind's DNA and a miracle.

5:59 PM  
Blogger The Catskill Chronicle said...

What I say: "C'mon, Otto, get the ball. Bring it here. I'll throw the ball. Get the ball."

What the dog hears: "Blah blah blah blah BALL ...blah blah BALL, blah blah blah BALL!".

Quick -- let me call the Dog Whisperer.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Keith Green!
KG's music has influenced me more than anything else on the planet almost. I have listened to him for so long. He has also influenced me as a musician, to be very honest and real in my lyrics. Actually, I'd be honored if you'd check out my music on my site. Its very, "Keithish."
Thanks for posting,
"All of my music is free for download."

2:51 PM  

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