Friday, July 22, 2005

More from Temple

I have been away for a short trip and haven't had much time to read but I did finish Temple's book. I didn't expect to learn about God from Grandin's Animals in Translation but I did learn something that gave me a perspective on the spiritual.

In her chapter "How animals think", she talks about Susan Schaller's research on language-less people and how they differ in their thinking from people with language. One of these was Ildefonso. Because he didn't have language he was missing a layer of abstract thinking. Susan did teach him some simple language and although he asked what the word God meant he had already figured it out on his own. Susan writes that he had guessed that the word "God" stood for "unseen greatness apart from and more important than the tangible stuff in front of us." Although Ildefonso had the idea that there was something greater than the material world, he didn't seem to have any concept of human justice...Ildefonso was an innocent. He didn't see all the good and bad that people do...After he learned language, he was sad to learn of the terrible things people do...Ildefonso's innocence was not the same thing as being stupid..Although Ildefonso didn't have an abstract sense of just and unjust, he did have an immediate, concrete sense of right and wrong..That shows you don't have to have language to have a conscience... Temple then talks about how this is what animals are like- innocent but not stupid, with a simple knowledge of right and wrong and an ability to show remorse.

Temple says a bit later: Ildefonso had gone to church when he was little but he didn't know what any of it meant, although he instantly figured out that the baby Jesus in a creche ...was the same as the grown up Jesus he had seen on crucifixes, which I think is pretty amazing. ... Although he ( Ildefonso) didn't know anything about the Christian religion his family practiced, he still had a religious sense.This is obvious to me from the fact that he picked up the word "God" within three weeks of first discovering language and understood that God meant "unseen greatness."... Religion is probably hardwired into the human brain, so it doesn't surprise me that a religious feeling or sense managed to shine through in Ildefonso even without words. Temple then goes on to speculate on whether animals have religious feelings and perceptions.

Interesting isn't it? Where does that innate knowledge of right and wrong come from? I would say from God.

It was a great book. I really must now start Sons of Fortune and I don't want to really.

No comments:

Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)