Looking Beneath Consciousness.
The Subconscious, Part 10.
Mina, as you’ll know by now, is my cat. and waiting for any passing mouse. Thankfully there aren’t any around here, when there was, Mina straightened like a dart. Her body was stiff and had one purpose and one purpose alone: catch it. There was nothing else in her life at that moment.
Apart from such moments, there’s not much to a cat’s life. Eating, grooming herself and of course going to the toilet. Finding somewhere comfortable is also part of this, which is when she curls up and goes to sleep on my grubby gardening jeans. They were by the washing machine waiting to go in with the next load – and should have been in the wash ten minutes later but for my snoozing pet.
Cat’s don’t do Saturday evening videos with friends. They just live, be a cat: they get on with it to the best of their abilities. Being cats, most of them are pretty good at it. After all, it’s what cats are for.
You’ll know from previous posts – and if you haven’t, just punch in ‘Mina’ into the search box at the top of the page – it’s hidden under the thing that looks like a magnifying glass. You’ll know from previous posts that Mina can’t tell me what she needs. I have to work out that an early morning yowl means ‘get me my breakfast you indolent human’ to her need to sit in the middle of the road. I get little help in decoding these, for animals can only respond to their needs. They look neither forwards nor back in time: their memory is their instinct and this is the resource they plumb – if that is the right term, instincts are shallow at best! – and the instinct fits their immediate circumstances.
The point of this post is to look inside ourselves to find out what it’s like for an animal – both to think and be. So as a little exercise, remember a few happenings from your infancy or early childhood. Give it a few minutes, enjoy a coffee and come back.
This isn’t a test, and it’s not a trick question. If you can accept what I say next, you’ll have an insight into the inner life of an animal.
Now whilst my question wasn’t a trick – I want you now to look at your memories in a different way. What lies between them, as it were? What is your experience of not being able to remember?
If it’s anything like my memories – and I have a few scattered from around eighteen months onwards – the bits in between them are just nothingness. There just isn’t anything there at all. It’s not even possible to conceive of what happened.
Yet at age four or five you’d have been able to tie your shoelaces and eat with a knife and fork. You’d have been able to speak to your mum in a meaningful if childish way. The latter implies an awareness of self that transcends the merely sentient. Yet memories are sketchy at best! A cat will yowl in hunger, a child will say their tummy hurts. Now it’s true that my dog Sasha would offer a hurt paw, but this only means that Sasha was aware of her paw hurting – it does not imply that Sasha could think. What is possible is that Sasha would have been more aware of her existence at that point, but this is pure conjecture. Our subconscious – and its relationship to animals is not.
A child has an ego, even if it doesn’t have the structure of the soul to allow it full expression. The point here is that the cat does not. A cat can never tell you what it’s like being a cat. A child can give it a go, even if it’s better left to them when they’re drawing. You can’t distract them with your own pre-conceived ideas that way, so skewing their answers. Psychologists be warned.
The point is for Mina that her existence when content is just pure contentment. There’s nothing to consider, it’s just the kind of darkness that lies between our childhood memories. Sleep for Mina is much the same too, just as it is for us save when dreaming. In other words, there’s not much difference between sleep and waking for her. The pictures that form in response to her eyes are forgotten in the way a child forgets theirs. That doesn’t mean they’re not there, it’s just that they’re inaccessible.
Which is extremely important when it comes to choosing facts. If you’re not aware of something, how can it be a fact for you? For many there’s the comfy realm of the known and the terror of the outside. Thankfully for Mina she isn’t aware of this. It is the curse of consciousness in our day and age.
The Subconscious: Links To Other Parts In This Series.
Part 1 Why Some Africans Can’t Count Beyond Three.
Part 2 Doctor Jazz, Düsseldorf.
Part 3 Letting The Lizard Drive!
Part 4 The Lizard Brain Meets Its Match: Brian’s Fiat Panda.
Part 5 Snow White And The Railways.
Part 6 Enemies In The Boardroom.
Part 7 The Clock Ticks: The Unconscious Threshold. (Published on my private blog)
Part 8 Milena Sees Witchcraft Everywhere.
Part 9 Frustration!
Part 10 What’s On Mina’s Mind Today?
Part 11 A First Peek At Autism.
Part 12 A Railway Waggon At The Roots Of Dementia?
Part 13 What’s It Like In There? Life With Dementia… (Published privately)
Part 14 The Evidence For Dementia.
Part 15 The Trouble With Alzheimer’s.
Part 16 The Man On Platform Two.