I believe that, just as each one of us has a story to tell, each animal has one, too. It all comes down to the POV (point of view).
As humans, our cultural background and experiences influence the way we understand and interact with the world. We see and perceive animals from a rather self-centered, oblivious point of view, based on personal (humanoid) knowledge (as a human), EQ (emotional intelligence) and, of course, inhibitions and phobias. But there are millions of animal species known to man, out of which over 5 000 species are mammals. Chances are we will only meet and interact with a fraction of them.
About dogs (world’s most popular pets), we known that they respond to human praise, but also choosehuman praise over a food treat. We know that they miss their (human) owners and often suffer when they are away from them. In Kenya, elephant families have been observed to pull together while struggling to survive drought and poaching. In other parts of the world wolf packs have been observed to adopt the cubs left without parents. A calve will stay with its dolphin mother as long as eight years; because they are so social, dolphins live in pods of up to 1000 members. That’s a small town!
Now let’s change the point of view.
How do animals perceive us? As friends or as enemies? What do animals feel? They do look angry at times, they seem to grief, to show empathy, to feel joy. But what goes through their minds? What goes through a dog’s mind (and heart) when one of his puppies is removed from the litter? What is a mother elephant actually saying when she rumbles and trumpets to protect her calf? I love listening to the morning birds, their chirp is peaceful and soothing, but what are they actually saying to each other?
Do animals have beliefs of their own? Do they act on intend? Do they use their knowledge and plan ahead? And if they do so, are we, humans, really “getting it” or do we miss the point all together?
Perhaps our children are the ones closest to finding an answer. Children are naturally open to this concept of “theory of mind” (the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and to others), as well as to learning about it. Attributing an animal desires and intents similar to their own is a characteristic behavior for a child. Children are tuned in and they do “get” the animals’ language.
The fact that children attempt eye contact more often than grown-ups might also facilitate a kid’s closer understanding of animal language. Eye contact between humans and dogs is paramount for a successful social interaction between the two as dogs rely on eye contact when establishing if the communication is relevant and directed at them. Dogs, especially, establish eye contact when they cannot solve a problem on their own.
Watching animals interact and understanding them is a learning curve for any human. It is an exercise on acknowledging that human race is not as superior as we like to believe. Animals do experience the same love and empathy as we do, but they certainly lack the hatred and the grudge that tends to overshadow and hinder us. Perhaps that one of the ways to reduce poaching and animal trafficking is through raising the bar in our knowledge of the animal world around us.
You be the judge, is the theory of mind and the idea that each animal has a story to tell valid?
I’ll end Theory of Mind, Each Animal Has a Story to Tell with this quote from one of my books:
“There was still a cloud of brown dust hovering around the Marines’ khaki shorts, tinting the scene in shades of sepia; a herd of stallions panting, their ears attend, nostrils quivering in expectation.
One of the Marines had picked up the ball, popping it between his arm and hip. Tara’s tail wagged, recognizing her partner and human handler, Seb.
Another Marine slapped Seb’s shoulder in a friendly manner and it was Xena’s turn to snort, recognizing Conde.
Dancing on the spot, Tara blew air through her nose and yapped at Honda in the next cage. Rambo spun around, pacing along the fence. Will Kent get a turn at holding the ball? Will he?
Only Honda cracked a sleepy eye, her tail sweeping the ground once before rolling over onto her back, snorting. Honda enjoyed action as much any dog, but she also knew that the humans did a lot of talking before any action would begin. Until she would sniff Dunn approaching her cage, Honda couldn’t be bothered.”
The best way to forget about the monster heatwave and scorching, hot temperatures outside is to read books set in a chilly location guaranteed to cool you down. Looks like summer won’t give us a moment of respite this year either. With lock-down and social distancing to consider, there is one sure way to cool off during the warmest months of the year and to keep safe from the torments of the heat.
Reading. Chilling crimes, Scottish or Nordic Noir; books set in frozen settings are perfect for cooling off and de-stressing.
One chilling place to start is In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin, just for its hard-hitting storytelling blended with humor. When everyone has something to hide and nobody is innocent, when all trails lead to John Rebus, will he be able to prove his innocence? This book is an ideal heatwave read as it asks for a full attention to keep up with its twists. The 22nd book featuring former detective John Rebus, it deals with two cases; a missing persons’ cold case and a recent murder. A complicated, complex and very satisfying read dripping with banter and some lighthearted humor bouncing between the two main characters. An instant No.1 Amazon Bestseller, shortlisted for British Book Awards, Crime & Thriller Book of the Year.
Summers are for keeps even when the possibilities for outdoor chilling are slashed, forcing us to focus on social media. So I’m looking next at another read, classic humor mixed with chilling crime, All That’s Dead by Stuart MacBride because the victim was a Twitter addict. So when he disappears, what are the chances that it was only an innocent act? Logan McRae, here in book 12, is faced with a perplexing case to solve while the story, spun by a master storyteller, is anchored in the present political issues from a master storyteller and a No 1 bestselling author.
For a play of words and on what to read during a hot day, dare touch Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg. The book pulls us in a Copenhagen covered by snow where a scientist who lives in a world numbers and science and is faced with solving a murder. If the clues leading to Greenlander are not enough to chill you, read it for the explosive secret that lies beneath the ice. Welcome to Nordic Noir, the bleakest of the bleak crime fiction and a book that won too many awards to even count them.
We remain in the territory of horrors, because they prove to be the best option for a hot day. Read The Shining by Stephen King. Can you say no to the prospect of a luxury hotel in Colorado, snowy and full of ghosts? Surely at least the minus something degrees will already seem bearable, by comparison to the heat outside your window. Danny is a five-year-old with paranormal powers, his father, Jack, is an alcoholic writer, and his mother Wendy is a bundle of nerves. What could go wrong? The book, published in 1977, turned King into a master of the horror genre, but also one of the best-selling writers of all time.
The day’s still too hot for you? How about Moscow, in the middle of the Russian winter? I’m thinking of one of the best crime novel set in Russia, Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park. The book successfully contrasts both Soviet and American societies, as well as the methods of Soviet and American detectives. Police investigates a triple murders set in Moscow’s Gorky Park in the middle of Russian winter and all clues point to a KGB hit. Arkady Renko, the Moscow homicide investigator, finds himself pulled into a web of intrigues connected to powerful American business interests. Chilling and atmospheric, the Arkady Renko series now includes eight gripping novels.
And if everything else fails, a hot drink on a hot day can also cool you down – or a read set in a hot location, temperature hot, action hot, politically hot: Afghanistan.
If you wish to survive through what seems to be the hottest summer in recent memory of the world, conventional wisdom says that you can cool down by drinking a hot beverage. But if you wish to forget the nagging heat outside your window, then escape in a book: Silent Heroes. Chosen one of 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime. As vivid as a movie, you will share the life of the Marines deployed in an Afghan military base; climb the breathtaking Hindu-Kush Mountains to a secluded Taliban camp; dive in the belly of ancient Qala-e-Bost fortress in the middle of a battle, and experience the culture of the Afghan people. Silent Heroes is a race against time, “an emotional rollercoaster of a read,” a page-turner, a thrilling contemporary story with a vivid sense of the place, history and politics that shines a light on the humanity of the Marines and their special relationship with their canine buddies. The utterly thrilling war fiction read inspired by true events from a Historical Fiction bestselling author – it will keep you gripped until the final page.
Start with any one. You won’t be disappointed and not even the heat will seem oppressive anymore.
Celebrate with me Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for and its 1 year anniversary from its publishing debut on Amazon. Looking at war from the perspective of all those sucked into it, civilians, soldiers, military working dogs, MWD, and eve belligerents, Silent Heroes is a narrative about the value of life and the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the trauma of taking a human life.
“What I tried to convey through Silent Heroes is that all those impacted by war are, at the end of a fighting day, human being with dreams and families. A war’s consequences, like the shadow of a nightmare, reach far beyond the battlefield. Perhaps being a woman that writes about war I couldn’t ignore my inner voice speaking for the daughter, the wife, and the mother in me.”
On the book itself and on how it came to be, read below.
The Bamiyan Buddhas stood for nearly two millennia as silent heroes, symbols of the Buddhist faith, witnesses to the hustle and the bustle of the Silk Route with its whirlwind of wealth, ideological exchange, and art, and to countless illogical wars.
In silence they stood since the middle of the first century, and witnessed. Did they know they were the largest in the world? Perhaps they heard rumors. Did they even care? I think not. Like the Buddhism they stood for, they enjoyed the freedom to observe and meditate, learning about human nature and that nothing lasts forever.
Yes, like standing Buddhas carved into performing specific gestures, but also carved into niches, allowing worshipers to circulate all around their feet, at the base of the statue, while meditating. They were not just shaped into the face of the mountain. By hairstyle they were Buddhist, but their capes showed clear Hellenistic Greek influences (think Louvre’s Winged Victory of Samothrace) as well as Indian elements. Two cosmopolitan masterpieces.
The tallest Buddha was almost as tall as the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, or half the height of the Victoria Tower, London, or almost a third of the height at which World Trade Center once stood.
If we would have a telescope to look back in time we would see:
‘a rock statue of the Buddha standing, one hundred forty or fifty feet in height, a dazzling golden color and adorned with brilliant gems.’
as well as
‘a copper statue of the Buddha standing, more than one hundred feet tall.’
The Great Tang Records of the Western Regions (Da Tang Xiyu Ji) by Xuanzang (Hsuan-Tsang), chinese monk, description written in 643
What happened to the Bamiyan Buddhas, these Silent Heroes?
‘Taliban forces operating in Afghanistan had destroyed these colossal statues in March 2001. They started by damaging the Buddha with anti-aircraft firearms and cannons. Yet the damage inflicted was not enough for the Taliban. They returned with anti-tank mines that they placed at the statues’ bases. When sections of rock broke off, the statues suffered further damage. And still, they did not stop here. The Taliban dropped men down the face of the cliff. They had placed explosives into the various grooves found in the Buddhas. The plan was clear, to completely destroy the facial features of the two statues. Maybe a bad understanding of the Quran: Islam condemns idolatry. When one of the blasts could not destroy the facial features of one statue, a rocket was used in its place. It left a hideous gap in whatever was left of the Buddha’s head.
The Taliban did not succeed in wiping out the two Buddhas, but they became unrecognizable as the figures they once were. A cultural, religious, historical and entomological symbol and landmark.
It was a bleak day in human history when something that watched over the valley for 1 500 years was destroyed in a matter of weeks.
Thanks to 21st-century technology the larger of the two Buddhas has been reconstructed using 3D light projections. A holographic image which, unfortunately, is only unveiled rarely, during special occasions.’