Day 84

5.00: For some reason, I’ve become a little bit obsessed lately by wondering about whether animals understand death.

Now some sort of research – I can’t tell how reliable – has looked into Chimpanzees mourning, and reckons they’re sometimes very similar to humans in grieving for the dead, and sometimes radically different.

In the chimpanzee’s case, there seems to be a lot of grooming involved, and “how far” asks this article, “is a mother chimpanzee’s veneration for their dead child different from Victorian trend of post-mortem photography?”

Well actually, a pretty far goddam cry, I’d say. Here’s a video of a dying ape; here’s a photograph of a dead child. Let’s not get carried away, shall we?

But there is something weirdly human, or analogous to the weirdly human, going on in the chimp flick.

Christopher Reid – who I’ve already waxed too lyrical about here – has noticed it in elephants too. The elephant, mooching about in a heap of the bones of one of his own decides “to do something about it”:

But what, exactly? They can’t, of course,
reassemble that old elephant magnificence;
they can’t even make a tidier heap. But they can
hook up the bones with their trunk and chuck them
this way and that way. So they do.

All of which is a bit eery. But then there’s scorpions, which apparently don’t commit suicide, but do kill themselves spearing their sting through the crowns of their skulls. Apparently this is not much more than a reflex designed to help the scorpion relieve the neural discomfort they suffer – arthropods get migraines too – but it’s convincing enough to have sparked a bit of human debate.

Um, happy breakfast everybody: mull on death and animal tragedies.

6.55: Tying things up is difficult. This isn’t really about the word count anymore; it’s about finding out how to make things make sense, and get in all the answers to not-answered questions without posing a whole new set of less interesting but still frustrating ones. Imagine actually trying to get two wales in a mini. That’s what this feels like: done properly they’ll be able to take the wheel and drive (well, assuming, they know the highway code), but by far the most likely outcome is an explosion of car parts and whale meat raining down on the N8 postal district. Brollies up, Crouch End.

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~ by David Thorley on April 28, 2010.

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