A line popped into my head some months ago and reappears from time to time bringing with it new perspectives, or perhaps re-aligning old ones. The line is simply: We are all fleshy manifestations of a ubiquitous spirit. As I try today to make some relational sense of language and our bodies and the way we are like and unlike the rest of this physical world I go back a few days to the thoughts on Freud, Jung, and Moreno.
My thesis then concerned their attempt to provide verbal understanding of the psychological and social dynamics set in motion by our biological, chemical and genetic physical foundations. Today I want to broaden the questions in this way: Perhaps we have mistaken our ability to articulate consciousness as proof that we alone are conscious. One by one anecdotal and occasional controlled studies give us examples from the rest of our animal neighbors that they demonstrate behaviors indicating feelings and abilities to plan that we have just begun to recognize: in the morning a chimp in a zoo gathers rocks to throw at the noonday crowd of visitors; a crow uses an instrument to get food from a tube, and teaches her young to do the same; dolphins rescue swimmers in distress. There have even been studies on reactions of plants to their caregivers attention or neglect.
We simply do not know the range of feelings or “consciousness” available to the other sentient beings of our world. We assume out of our own narcissistic tendencies that the limitations are theirs. But clearly the recent discoveries confirm that the limitations are more a reflection of how much we have yet to learn rather than what little there is to learn. Perhaps it is not our consciousness that makes us different from all the rest, but rather the gift of a language construct that allows us to verbalize that consciousness, not just our own, but the consciousness of life itself. That ability has given us the opportunity to engage in discoveries that both enrich and threaten this home of ours. The possibility that we share this home with all of its diverse inhabitants as conscious, if somewhat inarticulate “roommates” fills me with feelings beyond words.