A recent visitor asked what sort of cage he would need to keep a pet raven. What to say? Except that we can’t own another living thing. No animal. No plant. Not even our children. I was about to say “our own children.” They are autonomous forces moving freely through the world. A raven was born to fly. Humans were born to walk. Not live in cages. Not stay at home forever. Would we consider caging our own children? How then could we do that to a raven?
Let’s be honest though. How is our raven experiment truly any different? The ravens stay at our house even though they’re not caged. They may end up staying because we feed them. Or because they sense this a safe place. Or worse yet, because they are learning to be with humans and not their own kind. In which case we will have erected a far worse cage – the one that exists in their own mind.
By extension, what cages have we erected about ourselves they keep us from doing things? The should’ves. The have to’s. The “it’s easier”. Or more comfortable. Or we don’t know any different. Or “it’s what everybody else does.” Or it’s always been that way. Or the huh – I don’t know. Never thought about it. Or I’m scared. Or the I don’t know how to. Or my own kind vs. their own kind. Or my ideas. My own mind. Your own mind. Us. Them.
Categories are learned behavior. Other learning would result in other categories. We often pass learned behavior off as knowledge. But this knowledge doesn’t exist a priori as an absolute truth. It’s the framing of the universe through the senses and experience and information available to us. Other species with other sense organs or physical experiences may perceive it entirely differently. A raven raised in a yard only knows the yard. The ravens in the wash, why they’re wash ravens. Their neural pathways, if only slightly, will evolve differently. If even in that a wash raven doesn’t trust us. And the yard ravens do.
I’m scared. We need to make them go.