Thursday, February 12, 2004

How do we know?

I walked my pup down by the tracks today. It's not an ideal place, but a long section is fenced, meaning I can let him stretch his legs a bit.

He stays about 50 feet in front of me criss-crossing the area, as some breeds are inclined to do. I noticed that he sniffed something, leaped back, and made a wide circle around the object. As I got closer to the gray lump he was avoiding, I saw that it was an old bee or wasp hive; decayed with time and the winter snows. It was obvious that it had not been inhabited for many months. On our return trip, the pup once again walked around the hive.

We have had him since he was a pup. In my memory, he has never tangled with bees or wasps before. Yet he instinctively, or so it seemed, showed great aversion to being near this hive, even though it had long since ceased to be occupied.

Maybe there is a simple explanation. My mind wandered off in a few curious tangents, however. Could there be some kind of resilient scent in the hive itself that is repugnant to potential predators? Or, and this was the most interesting reflection to me, could it be that there is something to the idea of ancestral memory? Maybe the pup "knows" to avoid bees and wasps through knowledge that has been passed on genetically?

What is instinct? Is it hardwired into a particular species, or is it passed on through a specific bloodline?

This causes me to recall Jung's thoughts on the collective unconscious, Campbell's work on the myths that endure and the archetypes that have resonated throughout the history of our species.

It also brings to mind the Greek term of aletha (if I recall correctly), which is usually translated as "truth," although it is also defined as "remembering." The dominance of rational thought has caused many to limit the various ways that we can "know" anything. What if Locke got it all wrong with his notion of the tabla rasa? What if we enter this world "knowing" quite a bit, but in the business of this life, we forget such knowledge? Since it cannot be documented, and is immune to the scientific method, it is considered of little value, if it's existence is even acknowledged at all.

Wordsworth suggested this very idea in some of his poetry (Intimations of Immortality) Although he buried much of his thought within his poetry to avoid the label of heretic, the notion that we come from the light, remember it in our childhood, forget it in midlife, and then remember it as we draw near to it once again in our final years, is a recurrent theme in much of his work.

Which leads me to James Hillman's acorn theory. In The Soul's Code, he speaks of every person being born with a destiny; a particular image that is unique to your soul. This destiny is not limited to what we do (vocation, career, etc.). It is more about being. This idea is found in kabbalah and Native American culture, among others. It is also found in Buddhism and Hinduism, but is often wrapped up in their understanding of things like karma and reincarnation. The world does not have to force-fit us into a particular box. If we look over our lives, we "know" why we are here. It is a matter of "remembering."

Or, then again, maybe that old hive simply smelled really rank? Only the pup "knows," and he's not telling.


You do this, you do that
You argue left, you argue right
You come down, you go up
This person says no, you say yes
Back and forth
You are happy
You are really happy


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