‘Danger’ Is My Middle Name

Sort of a general update & various musings:

A. On occasion, we have visited the public educational labs in the basement of the Lawrence Hall of Science. One lab contains all sorts of animals in cages and tanks – snakes, large lizards, bunnies and more exotic furry, scaly and aquatic things, for the kids to look at up close. At the time, I wondered at the mix of predator and prey animals – some of those bigger snakes, for example, would no doubt happily eat many of the furry critters in cages a couple feet away.

One of the things that has long fascinated and often saddened me is how easily people push animals past the range of situations for which their instincts are adapted. Most obviously, cars are not part of animals’ environment of evolutionary adaptation – thus, the phrase ‘deer in the headlights’ and all that roadkill. On the positive side, when a human being picks up a small creature and *doesn’t* kill and eat it, that creature is in uncharted territory, instinct-wise. Who knows what is going on in those tiny brains when that happens? The result, however, is that such animals can often become quite tame, as they incorporate getting-picked-up-and-handled-by-humans-doesn’t-mean-I’m-dead into their little worlds.

It’s a mystery, as is the state of mind of little creatures who can see and smell nasty horrible predators in the neighboring cages in that lab. At first, that’s got to be crazy-making. Over time, do the bunnies and rats and things learn to ignore it, or do they live in a constant state of terror, or some other state? Hard to tell.

This all comes to mind because, couple days back, my son and I were feeding a couple mice to his corn snake. Circle of life, and all that. This time, our new cat, kitten really, who clearly thinks himself a fierce predator, noticed the little paper bag with the mice in it. He followed upstairs when we took them up to David’s bedroom where the snake lives.

We put the cat out of the bedroom, closed the door, put the snake and one of the mice in a large clear plastic tub with a lid that is the snake’s feeding place (keeps him from accidentally ingesting the wood shavings that might cling to a mouse’s fur – eating wood shavings is bad news for a snake.) As he did his thing, I took his water bowl and opened the door to wash and refile it in the bathroom.

The moment I opened the door, little Razor the cat was in, on the bed and on top of the tub with the snake and the mouse in it in under a second – damn, cats can move fast when they want to.

The mouse was beyond caring, having left this mortal coil within the snake’s coils (1); the snake, however, was Not Happy. Usually, the snake is more than content to get fed and put back in his quarters. Corn snakes have this thing they do when frightened – they pretend to be rattlesnakes by assuming strike position and wiggling their tails very fast – well, he went into full-on ‘I’m a big bad rattler’ mode, so I just dumped him back home, not wanting to handle him at that point. He can’t really hurt you, but there’s an unpleasant primordial human reaction to having a snake strike at you, and I don’t like it.

The cat seemed Very Disappointed when we put him back out of the room. We are running, it seems, the same accidental experiment that Lawrence Hall of Science runs: we are putting predator and prey in uncomfortably close proximity, and messing with their tiny heads. We could, I suppose, get a big snake to mess with the cat’s head, bring it full circle – nah, I like the cat.

  1. Evidently, snakes don’t actually suffocate their prey – the squeeze them hard enough to stop their hearts from beating. Isn’t nature wonderful? All cuddly and nice and fuzzy and BLOODTHIRSTY AND BRUTAL AND rainbows and waterfalls and…

B. Draft-itis strikes again! Got some ill-formed and incomplete thoughts in draft form on Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and the Mob Rule of Judges, the late Paris unpleasantness and the psychotic need of people to cling to the idea that Islam is a religion of peace, and the idea that the Church is being mean to deny communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. But each grows out of control, becoming both larger and more diffuse the more I work on them. I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but there’s a bunch of fascinating stuff on and by OWH jr right there on the Web where it can ambush the unsuspecting into reading it for HOURS AT A TIME. And there’s also Orestes Brownson. And more Hegel. And books by Flynn, Wright and Wolfe. And we’re heading out on vacation for the next week. Soon and very soon, we’re going to see some posts, for values of ‘soon’ out beyond next week.

C. Two Questionable Spiritual Theories:

  1. Redemptive Mockery. Developed by my older daughter and some friends a few years ago and formalized by me, this theory proposes that the value of the redemptive suffering of an individual can be increased by the loving and humility-increasing mockery of her friends. Much spiritual discernment is required, as well as a biting sense of humor.
  2. The Holy Order of Dormition. Proposed by the late Fr. Crume (may he rest in peace!) during his (and my) college days, the logic goes as follows: Man is only fully united with God in death; Sleep is as close to death as we get in this life. Therefore, if we wish to be close to God, we should sleep as much a possible. An order should be established to this end.

The efficacy of mocking people as they sleep as a road to spiritual growth has yet to be fully explored by the proper ecclasiastical authorities, of by anyone else, for that matter.

D. Finally, don’t let The Man push you around:

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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