Monday, February 8, 2016

Monkey See We Do

I don't usually enjoy watching the whole "Circle of Life" bit on Nature and the like. While I am an animal lover, eventually the critter that I have been rooting for gets eaten or shot.

But one day while idly channel surfing, I paused and risked the heartbreak. 

Apparently, the mark of intelligence in mammals is self-awareness. The test to determine if an animal is self-aware is to provide it with a mirror; if the monkey treats his reflection as though it is another monkey, he's flunked. If the chimp begins to preen over his own image, bravo, he's self-aware, and therefore possesses intelligence. Various animals have passed: dolphins, elephants, apes.
Pondering . . . Are we, as humans, automatically self-aware? Taking it beyond the mirror. 

Self-aware = Aware of oneself, including one's traits, feelings, and behaviors ( 

I'm certainly not infallible, so I try to analyze my behavior and reactions. Why? From whither? For art? 

There was a book review in the NY Times; I couldn't locate the article, but here's what I recall: An atheist was claiming that there is no such thing as free will, because all of our actions are pre-decreed by our subconscious thoughts. 

Even atheists want to wiggle out of free will. 

It is a dim view of humanity his theory provides, as well as espousing our own limitations. "I can't help it, my subconscious went rogue!" 

But I have heard Esther Wein shiurim to the contrary, listing the various levels of our brains: reptilian/ruach (for our bodily functions), mammalian/nefesh (emotions), and human/neshama (logic). 

"Elokai neshama shenasata bi," "My God, the soul that you placed within me." It sounds like, Mrs. Wein says, that the neshama and the self are separate. The "me," she explains, is the chooser.

We are given the tools to hash out whatever is percolating within us. We can choose how to see things, rather than merely see. We can choose how to do things, rather than doing.

But first, we have to look at the mirror. Not straight on; that would be too hard. From the side, using peripheral vision, as Ma says. To be real about who we are, where we need to improve, and what to do about it.     

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