Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Trippin' Leopard

At some point yesterday I was telling the Professor about this show that the Butcher and I caught the tail end of, about how animals use tools. Now, we're not just talking a monkey who takes a stick and digs out some termites, we're talking dolphins who lure fish into fishing nets and eat what escapes or birds that direct badgers to honey combs in exchange for the bee-less remnants. But what really freaked me out was the portion on animals' ingestion of plants and other animals for medicinal and recreational purposes. They talked about monkeys eating certain plants to soothe their stomach aches and drinking tourists' drinks to get drunk. But what really got me was the tripping leopard. Apparently, leopards in South America eat the same vine that shamans eat to go on spirit journeys. The leopards then start acting loopy, lay down in the grass, and stare strangely off into space. What really freaked me out about this was that it just never occurred to me that animals would intentionally attempt to transcend their physical conditions. I've just always assumed that one of the things that made us different than other animals was that we had some sense of ourselves as being more than or other than just our bodies. And so our bodies can be manipulated to make ourselves feel better. If you think of dogs who just take it when they're abused by their owners, or who you see on Animal Planet with deep cuts on their necks where they've been tied up with wire for months, you can kind of get stuck with this idea that animals are always in their bodies in ways we can transcend. But if you're going to eat a leaf to sooth your stomach, you must have a notion that your pain can be alleviated and that you can do it. And, if you're going to lay on the floor of a jungle having vine-induced hallucinations, you must have some concept of an interior life different from your exterior life. What, I wonder, is the philosophy of the tripping leopard?


Blogger Twyla said...

Reminds me of a dog I had in the old pot-smoking days of the 70's. We had to be extra careful with our pot, even the roaches in the ashtrays, because this dog would sniff them out and consume them, then act oddly...running across the back of the couch like a cat or rolling up on his back to stare with fascination at the light fixture. I used to despise friends that would blow smoke in their pets faces just to laugh at them high. But this dog seemed to have a real desire for pot. Weird.

And I wonder what a trip is like for a leopard. I wonder why they don't get frightened, why they would go back to the plant again and again. Makes you wonder.

6/14/2005 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

They said that the shamans who take the vine do so to commune with the spirit of the leopard in order to be better hunters. Maybe the leopards are learning to be better shamans?

6/14/2005 04:53:00 PM  

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