Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Being Another Organism

One fascinating topic for authors is to try to see the world through the eyes of another organism.  Coetzee has written a number of stories with embedded essays about animal perspectives, whether we can ever perceive the world from the eyes of a lion or a bat. 

Recently I've been very interested in sea creatures.  Not necessarily sea anemones like the one  pictured here, but octopus.  I've read haphazardly around the topic of octopus intelligence and perception, and my favorite at present is Soul of an Octopus. The ingenuity and the moods of several individuals of this species surprised me a great deal.  Some are kindly and others aloof, some are Houdinis and can ooze their entire bodies through tiny cracks to escape aquaria. The color changes they undergo can be similar to facial expressions.  In some cases, a red octopus is interested only in sex.  

I imagine that sci fi authors who write about alien shape shifters could be unconsciously modeling them on octopuses.  But how do they feel?  Clearly they'd prefer not to be caged in an aquarium.  Sy Montgomery attributes many human qualities to the individuals she got to know and described in Soul of an Octopus.  I think the choice of the word 'soul' is shocking to some, but to me it seems justified.  But I also see how a human can fool him or herself about what an octopus is thinking or feeling.  There is a barrier that remains, no matter how connected one may feel.  But exploring that barrier is fascinating to write about and to read.


Anonymous said...

I think octopuses (pi?) are amazing. I will try to get that book you mentioned and read it. Getting personal contact with an octopus would be fascinating. I think I can never really think like one, but perhaps we might be friends? I'd like to try.
Susie K.

Lorelei said...

I think it would be fascinating to be an octopus for a while, so long as it was reversible. That would answer my questions but I'm not sure I would remember/understand the answers once I was re-humanized.