Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

Ours is not a learned academic background, simply observation and anecdotal information plus a great many questions. The first conclusion we came to is that we have two separate bits in our head. The first is the one we are aware of is the mind with which we can think things out and act, rightly or wrongly, on the result of our thoughts or what we see and hear. It is probably one of the main things that separates us from animals.

At its most simple, the brain is where we respond without thinking to outside stimulation or locked in information. It is probably the brain that makes some of us afraid of spiders, heights, birds, the dark. As we share this with animals it maybe easier to see this mind in action with animals.
Cat & Cucumber

We recently saw one supposedly funny series of clips on the internet. Owners quietly placed a cucumber behind their cats. When the cats turned and saw the cucumber they literally flipped, jumping high in the air to escape from what their reactive mind must have interpreted as a snake.

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That fear of the snake must be hard wired into the cat's memory, put there through countless generations of cats. These 'Hard' memories are fairly obvious in animals and birds. The parent Blackbird and Song Thrush don't teach their offspring how to build a nest but although they are closely related, the nests have one striking difference. Both are elaborately built of straw, twigs and grass in similar locations but whereas the Blackbird lines the nest with soft grass the Song Thrush nest is lined with mud, dung and saliva.

It is more difficult to spot these 'inbuilt' memories in ourselves, one obvious one is the ability to speak, as children we learn a language but how to use mouth, lips and tongue to form words, is in-built. Take another remarkable skill which we take for granted - simply standing upright. On the platform of our two feet each measuring, perhaps, 10x20cm not only can we stand but we can run, jump, some can even walk on a tightrope!


There must be some cross over between the brain and the mind because not all our reactive behaviour is what I call genetic. Once more animals are the easiest to see where this has happened, Roy was a black Labrador that my uncle had taken in after the local butcher had threatened to have the eight month old dog put down. Roy was cowed and afraid, he had been beaten and kicked by his master. He was a gentle dog but the way he had been treated had left its mark. Gradually he came to trust my uncle and became his devoted companion. He was well behaved and walked quietly to heel until, that is, they happened to walk past the butchers shop. Roy cowered, and refused to walk past the door. My uncle had to put him on the lead and cross the road. I don't believe Roy remembered the beating and kicking but the trigger, just like the cucumber for the cat, made him react.

We too must have triggers that have been recorded during our lifetime. Words or actions by others which are no longer active memories but which have lodged in our reactive mind. These aren't necessarily bad. My daughter dislikes fish, even the smell puts her off and yet, she loves smoked salmon. It is certainly fish, has a strong smell and is actually raw. We have discussed this and come to the conclusion its is a taste formed when she was very young.
Smoked Salmon

We were quite hard up and would never have bought smoked salmon but a friend who was quite well off bought us some. My wife made quite a fuss and we shared this luxurious delicacy with Carol. Because it was such an expensive treat, she took a liking to it and it has stuck with her. By the same token I took my fourteen year old son to London for a weekend and treated him to dinner in an Italian restaurant, something he hadn't experienced in our Lancashire town. For starter I ordered Avocado with prawns, for him something new and a bit exotic. If you asked him now, at the age of fifty something what was his favourite starter I am sure it would be Avocado. In both cases good memories firmly planted in the brain.

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