Have you ever watched ants move around? They seem to follow a neat line, but if you look at them closely, they move like little bumper cars along a corridor. They really only perceive a small area around them. This is why you can place food sometimes very close to their line and they will go hours before finding it. This is also why they do not tend to freak out about a giant creature watching them. Why freak out about something you cannot affect or change, or by your knowledge will not affect you?

When you approach some fish, they obviously see you from a fair distance away, but they do not move until you make a fast movement toward them, or they see something interesting. These fish do not waste energy responding to anything less than an imminent threat. Evolution has given them the tools they need to perceive and respond to the typical trials of life.

A friend asked why our small dog Neji is afraid of him. Every time this friend comes over, he looks Neji in the eye and leans or moves toward him. For a 4.5 lb dog, the world is a huge place and big things can be perceived as scary, especially when you do not understand what they are. I told my friend, imagine if you saw a terrifying creature made up of all the things you fear, tall, loud and with appendages in the wrong place. You would be frightened. When that creature moves toward you, you would be terrified. But it just wants to pick you up and kiss you and hold you. We see this in many animals that have a prejudice toward or against people. Especially in dogs and cats, they are perhaps fearful and use the same fear response for all people, or treat all humans with unconditional love.

What about people?
Some of us move like ants. Our lives follow the same track day in and day out. We cannot perceive, much less bother to respond to the suffering of others outside our field of vision. We may never have left our city or country and if we do we continue to measure everyone else by our native standards. Why are these people so rude (by my standards)? Why are they so loud (compared to my family)?
Some of us are like fish, we see the world around us and we know what is coming. We are confident that we can survive and carry on with our business despite it and therefore we do not need to respond. That is, until the danger is upon us. Then we swim for our lives. Look at prison reform, responses to crime, voting for political parties.
Some of us are little dogs. However we come about our perceptions of a certain person or group of people or ideology, we hold on to it. We run away and bark so loudly, that we cannot recognize the words of peace when they approach. We also do not realize how silly we look. We see this when atheists rail against all religion, not recognizing the benefit that religion provides society. We see this in the opposite as Christians denounce science or hinder scientific progress for the good of the world. We see this in world conflicts and on street corners where he public and private school children hate each other because of the uniform they wear. The girls from that school are easy. The boys from that school are all in a gang.

Sadly, people can see around the world, into space, to other universes even, but we find it difficult to look at and help those we can near by. This week if you are thinking of spending an hour on the beach, consider volunteering at the Humane Society, a home for the elderly or blind. If you expect to spend $40 in a club, think of donating a snorkel kit to BREEF http://www.breef.org. Broaden your perception and do something for someone.

Ancilleno Davis, M.Sc.