Friday, July 5, 2013

A thorn in a beaver's mind

I read somewhere, a researcher was studying behavior of a beaver, that other animal who profoundly changes his environment (the number one animal who does it is us humans). It is a well-known fact that beavers watch out tirelessly for leaks in their dams. If they hear the sound of running water they rush to the site and execute repairs. The researcher played a trick on the beaver – played the sound of running water on a tape recorder. The beaver rushed in. Went to work. He worked and worked on a perfectly intact dam, while the tape played on.  The researcher concludes that the industrious rodent lacks in a certain kind of operational intelligence.
As a scientist, I agree.  As a writer, I see a caveat and a metaphor.  Do we not react the same way, when faced with an upset to our own little orders of things? We do what we can. We do our personal best. We do what we are used to do, trained to do. And sometimes, when the upset is beyond our comprehension or ability, we still do just that, keep patching a perfectly intact dam because we just can’t help it. Because all we know is that something, somewhere, somehow, is wrong -- we just can't understand what it is, exactly, that is broken.

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