I have just finished my exams and it was really intense, so today’s post is the product of a sleep-deprived under-fed over-used mind. Lower your expectations.
So anyway, a couple of weeks ago in one of my seminars my tutor asked me to name the first animal that popped into my mind. Bear. She was very surprised. Most people seem to say something like cat or dog, since they are catalogued in most people’s brains (but apparently not mine) as the prototypical animal. A girl came in late to the seminar so the tutor asked her the same question, and she said moose. Our tutor was baffled by this. Now, I think there is a very fascinating correlation in the fact that I was mostly raised in Finland, whereas the girl who came in late is Swedish. Moose and bears are typical examples of forest wildlife, so there’s that.
So maybe my Nordic upbringing has something to do with it. But I gave this a heck of a lot of thought (procrastination, anyone?) and I think I have tapped onto something a lot deeper than that. ‘Bear’ has, as far as I can remember, always been my go-to prototypical animal. And here’s why.
It is the animal stripped of all additional features, all extra bells and whistles. Horns are extra. Long tails are extra. Stripes are extra. Scales are extra. Wings are extra deluxe. It is the animal form in all its simplicity, the mould for all other animals, the basis, the template, the starting point. How do you define a bear? How would you define a bear to someone who has never seen one, without resorting to negatives? It’s…an animal. It’s the animal.
And when we describe any other animal, aren’t we all really just describing it in relation to a bear? Animal X flies/swims/jumps/swings from tree to tree – implying that the “prototypical” animal doesn’t. It’s time to stop pretending that bears aren’t the stock representatives of the entire animal kingdom.
There’s not much I can write to make this post any weirder than it already is. To sort of quote Bret from Flight of the Conchords but in an entirely different context: I told you I was freaky. You didn’t believe me.