Tuesday, 10 April 2012

To live is to be aware

I'm in the kitchen reading a paper when just at the edge of my field of vision, I observe a tiny fly. Smaller than a fruit fly - small - BAFF! It's dead. I've swiped it swiftly, without consciously thinking about it. Suddenly I pull up. Its little life - extinguished. Its brief existence within the universe - terminated abruptly. Was it aware? Conscious? Its last millisecond of life taken up by the awful realisation that it's too late to dodge the massive object hurtling down upon it... Or not - the fly I killed was no more than an animate collection of a central nervous system wrapped up in an exoskeleton, propelled by two pairs of wings and three pairs of legs, provided with sensory organs and an alimentary tract to fuel it. Probably the latter.

But let's climb up the evolutionary ladder. We have a rat (Ratboy - despite its name, a girl), Moni's 18th birthday present from her friends, who after a term in Łódź, made her way back to Jeziorki where she lives (15 months old now) in her spacious cage, dining on Lindt chocolate, pistachio nuts and Parmesan cheese. Ratboy is super-intelligent, friendly and curious, though she'll bite your finger should it ingresses too far into her cage. She is most certainly aware in the sense that you or I are aware; and aware that you are aware she is aware.

Larger, but dim in mammalian terms is our cat, below, officially Papusia but to me Chisko or Chiskie (from kocisko the augmentative of kot, 'cat'). Chisko is legendarily thick. She wants to go outside, but can see from the patio door that its raining. So she miaows by the front door to be let out; because she can't observe the rain through the solid wooden door, she reasons it isn't.

Compare a cat eating (it shovels its face into a bowl of food) to a rat (picking out what it wants with its hands, then holding it as it eats); it suggests that the rat has evolved further.

Chiskie is in her tenth year and matronly. Over-feeding has given her the proportions not so much a rugby ball but of a Zeppelin, moving slowly and silently towards her moorings (the catfood bowl or any sleepable surface). Is Chiskie aware? I guess being inside her brain is much like being at the bottom of a swimming pool; vague sensations making their way through but little to make sense of. Most important things in her mind about humans - they've mastered the art of opening tins of cat food. And in winter their houses are warmer than what's outside.

Moni has acquired a stray kitten, a tortoiseshell/white female (as yet unnamed) which came to Warsaw for the Easter break. What a contrast. The kitten is a fireball of energy, full of restless curiosity, courage, trust and incredible friendliness, yet with delicate toes. Despite checking out every horizontal surface in the house, she's broken nothing. A little learning machine, she's able to put two and two together very quickly and not repeat mistakes made. A very high level of consciousness compared to Old Chisko.

That's enough cutism for this blog. Suffice to say, harmony between cat and rat has been upset; Moni's kitten returns to Łódź on Sunday and the non-human residents of the house can get back to normal functioning.

This time two years ago:
Why did this happen

This time two years ago:
Britain's grey squirrels turning red


Anonymous said...

Why....I wouldn't even harm a fly!

Frater BatesMotelia

Anonymous said...

zeppelin proportions not in evidence.
Loved the cat-brain/swimming pool description (I may have snorted a little)
I guess I'm a dog person at heart.