Friday, November 18, 2005

mirror, mirror...

I saw a couple of great tits fluttering in and around our veranda today. I have put up bird feeders for the mob of sparrows who camp in the holly tree near by, but we do see other birds occasionally.

What I couldn’t understand was why they kept coming right inside and getting so excited. It turns out that my partner has not only put plants, mobiles and other knick-knacks around, but has included an old mirror. The birds had seen themselves in the mirror, responded in a territorial manner, and now persisted in trying to see off the intruders. Of course, their programs evolved in a world without reflecting surfaces, so I can’t actually think of them as stupid. At the same time, I wonder if they will exhaust themselves with this, and whether I should cover up or remove the mirror. Just as I feel torn between laughing and feeling sorry for them, I also feel torn between ‘doing the right thing’ and seeing if they can figure it out for themselves.

Like Philip K Dick, I do wonder sometimes where my own mirror lies, and what form it takes, and whether Higher Intelligence laughs at me, too, rather than simply helping me out by removing the trap. On the other hand, perhaps I prefer the chance to figure out if I should consider myself my own worst enemy.

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

Measure for Measure 2.2.117
I quite enjoyed this enigmatic comment from the English astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, in “Space, Time and Gravitation”:
“We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the unknown. We have devised profound theories, one after another, to account for its origins. At last, we have succeeded in reconstructing the creature that made the footprint. And lo! It is our own.”

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