But as soon as you think about the relatively higher and more elaborate animals, like mammals and birds, then mind complexity gets such that to a greater or lesser degree, intelligence and the capacity to think and figure things out has to be taken under consideration.
I strongly suspect that mammals and birds develop a personal worldview mythology which explains for their satisfaction all that they see and experience every day.
Further, for those animals that develop a direct or indirect connection with humans they must also evolve a personal mythology that is understandable within their larger worldview that places us into their Big Picture. That mythology, their POV is going to be grossly incorrect of course, but they do not know that. They, in all honesty can not understand the sum total of those experiences they share directly with human activity and so to a degree or other they create a mythical worldview that somehow clarifies what humans do within their own context. But, sometimes humans feature only indirectly and so their POV does not actually involve individuals in almost any form, manner or form.
So that the purpose of this little essay is to illustrate those animals (i.e. – mammals and birds) that interact directly or indirectly with people (in a good, indifferent, bad or god-awful way) have a somewhat human-centred mythology even if they are not conscious of it. Taking one specific animal for instance, consider another story of the possum.
I’ve got a possum that visits my spine courtyard overnight. I know that because I frequently see its poo; really I once saw it silhouetted against the background of a lighted window of a house opposite mine. Presumably the possum hasn’t spotted me; it being a creature of the night and I being a creature of the day. 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 country’s capital, Canberra, therefore, in compassion for a fellow life-form who has a far tougher life than I, I chose to leaving out to it in the early evening an apple. In the morning following, it was gone – that the apple that’s. Now I, as a smart individual, know all of the details of the subject. I purchase an apple; I leave out the apple; the possum finds the apple and eats it. However, I can’t help but wonder, from the perspective of the possum, what exactly does it make of this nightly present of an apple, an apple which looks where there is not any apple tree for miles around?
Some assumptions have been in order. If something out of the ordinary occurs, it makes an impression. Translated, the sun comes up and the sun sets – nothing out of the ordinary. I doubt if the possum much ponders this fact of life. It is warm in the summertime; cold in the winter; some days it rains; many days it doesn’t rain. But that daily apple hasn’t been part and parcel of its own worldview mythology – till today.
So, something new, valuable but unexpected comes into play. Does the possum put it down to good luck, good fortune, clean living, being in the right place at the right time, or does it feel stronger than that?
Now an apple looks for the first time on the ground it forages over – unusual but strange things happen. An apple looks on the exact same spot of ground every day – the same spot with no advantage of an apple tree. That is not in keeping with the ordinary expectations and adventures of the possum. Since this is not something natural and ordinary within the possum’s worldview, then this must be something extraordinary; this is something bewitching; this can be something paranormal; this can be something unnatural. Maybe there’s a supernatural Possum Deity that looks after possums in times of demand, like in the wintertime when food generally and apples particularly are few and far between.
And so our possum perhaps develops this concept of something larger than the pure world it is used to.
But maybe it’s seen me from the seclusion of its tree put down the apple, in which case perhaps I am the Good 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 spot night after night, might our hungry possum attribute something extraordinary for this patch of (my) garden, (its) courtyard turf?
Now the possum’s perspective won’t be one based around speech and it won’t be able to convey its worldview mythology into other possums. Rather its senses will be based on its own five senses, most prominently vision in all probability. It may imagine, visualise in its mind, some super-sized (Santa Claus type deity) possum bringing apples without having words for ‘apple’ or ‘possum’ or ‘deity’ or ‘gift giver’ or perhaps ‘individual’. It wouldn’t have words for earth or ‘Sacred Site’, instead a mental image that this patch of ground is extra-special. Such an image, as opposed to the words we would use, would not be out of the question.
Alright, you know and I know there is no Possum Deity, nothing mysterious or supernatural is going on, there’s absolutely not any Sacred Site. I understand what’s happening – a predator, tens of thousands of miles apart sells their crop of apples into some company who hires a distributor who trucks them to Canberra and they end up in that company’s local supermarkets. You know that, and I know that, but we can not expect the possum to understand that. If this possum communicates with fellow possums (not that it may), it is not likely to relate a story of a compassionate human purchasing an apple each day and leaving it out to be devoured by possums, far less have knowledge of the way away farmer, company, supplier, Centurian, truck, grocery store, and all of the infrastructure which implies, etc..
It would be fascinating to talk to that possum and find out exactly what its current worldview mythology is, even though that’s beyond our way. But, I’d wager that whatever it is, it is wrong! Still, let’s walk a mile in its own paws and try to look at things like it’d. That much we could do. I’ve tried to accomplish this, but the odds are I am wrong oo. There’s 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 wrong.
However, just like each possum has their own unique worldview mythology, so too does each and every human have a special perspective on life, the universe and everything. The distinction is that in many cases we can convey that perspective to the others of our species.
The purpose now is if our companion mammals possess a flawed POV of their worldview mythology, one that we know is wrong, but they do not, one which may or may not incorporate humans; do we people have in turn a faulty POV in regards to our worldview mythologies? The parallels between mammals (like our possum) and people and people collective worldview mythologies we all have may suggest that we too have some faulty perceptions about life, the universe and everything that need further and continued exploration and elaboration. In this broader context, maybe we can also have empathy with possums inasmuch as we also might have flawed worldview mythologies in the eyes of entities superior to us