Location: Southeastern, United States

Friday, August 05, 2005

Not for our purposes but for their own

One of the nanny families has kittens, two little rough-furred fuzzballs found starving by a roadside. All week I have watched the human children and the cat children learning each other, roughly, heavy-handed, claws out. The youngest boy feeds the cats from on top of a wooden chest, out of their reach, crying when they get too close. The cats, afraid of the height of even a short human, clamber out of arms and up necks, digging their feet into napes and scalps trying to grab a hold. Gently, we tell them, gently, while the kittens in their crate tussel, digging teeth and claws into each other's necks and crying piteously when pinned. Gently, we tell them, gently, mixing condensed goats' milk and kitten formula and setting it down for cats who already are more interested in stalking and eating the giant carolina roaches that sneak in through the cracks in the sunroom. They go their way in our lives, I guess.

Anyway, parrots can do abstract math, and chimpanzees can talk like deaf people, and every house on my road also encloses something with fur or fins or feathers, something that looks us in the eye and does not know our names. Space travel is all well and good, but if we met sentience out there, who's to say we'd know it there either?



Blogger Dale said...

Yes. I often am entertained by the people who so earnestly go looking for alien life, as though our problem was to find messages of a sort we already expect. Surely the difficulty will be to discover what thing it is that we already have, which is a message? And then to learn to read it?

5:20 PM  

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