Out for a walk after work the other day, I spied a black cat. Not the superstitious sort, I didn’t let this deter me from continuing on. Then I noticed that it was a mere three or four feet from a ground hog that was just as large as, if not larger than, the cat was. They were staring at each other, weighing their options. The ground hog didn’t appear too concerned. Then a rabbit hopped up, on the other side of the cat. A perfect syzygy of fauna that remained still for a moment in a tableau of nature. About the same time as the cat noticed the rabbit, the rabbit noticed it back and quickly hopped away. The cat crouched and slunk after the bunny and the woodchuck ambled off at its own pace.
Not only was this conjunction an odd combination of three species of mammal—four if you count me—but it was such a conscious interaction that I had to think of it as almost human. Three very different individuals, probably all with eating on their minds, had to assess how to interact, wordlessly. As far as I could tell the drama ended amicably. The cat looked well fed, in any case, and the rabbit far outdistanced it from the start. Chuck was unconcerned. Although the hard line still exists in science, drawn between ourselves and our fellow animals, I’m convinced that they have a share of consciousness. We’re told that they’re mere “machines” following instinct. These three “machines” along the trail were sure acting like they were thinking.
As the situation played out, no violence ensued. Three individuals out enjoying the spring happened to find themselves in a scenario that called for negotiation. The cat, like Republicans, felt compelled toward aggression, I should imagine. It had a choice: take on a larger, more worthy foe, or turn its attention to the weaker, more vulnerable prey. Naturally, it turned toward the weaker of the two. There were differing agendas at play here, and with a dose of consciousness added in, these critters behaved so like human beings that I felt compelled to share it. The ground hog and rabbit looked on the situation with some wariness. They thought about it, and each took the prudent route to safety, for the time being. Nature, it seems, will find its balance if we let it. And we, if we would acknowledge it, still have something to learn from nature.