Smart animals

The first snow has just started to fall, on the wintry December 10 day. I was just in time planting 20 tiny Winter Aconaite (Eranthis) bulbs. They look like nothing, little shriveled up dark things that blend in with the debris from frantic squirrel activity over the last few months. As I was digging small holes in different parts of the yard I always found nuts from this or that tree that had already claimed the space. It is rather amazing how the squirrels remember where they put stuff. We would call that smarts, but I am not sure what it means for animals.

I am listening to a book about cephalopods, among them octopus, giant squid and tiny squid. It is a philosophical treatise about consciousness and what the amazing behavior of cephalopods teaches us about consciousness. As with most books I am reading or listening to these days, it is about the brain. But the brain and nervous system of the octopus is, I learn, not in the head but all over the body. In my coaching course the word ‘embodiment’ is often used and I am trying to figure out what that means for us humans – but for the octopus it is clear. The body and brain are one. And maybe we are like that too, as there are neurons (some 500 million) in our gut and (less) in our heart. And neural activity takes of course also place in our small toe.

 

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