Part 42: The path least travelled (part 20)
2007-09-06 12:59:44 -
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Previously: Bilberries, fishing, camping in the wilderness, setting fires, relationships and camaraderie, have all helped our three travellers and Electra - whom they met on their way - develop and grow considerably. Less than three days into their venture to find a mythical treasure, our friends have lit another fire on which to cook the fish they have just caught.
 
The story continued: Deeply connected to their own sense of reality, within the wilderness, the last thing the travellers expected was to see a vixen in broad daylight approaching them cautiously, limping slightly. “Look!” exclaimed Prostremo. “Is that the young vixen we helped set free from the Gin Trap?” “Isn’t that amazing?” said Electra. “I thought that foxes were completely wild, yet somehow that vixen seems to realise that we intend her no harm.” The vixen limped up to about 50 metres away and slowly sat down, its limpid eyes fixed on the group with an alertness that was both wary and curious. Its tawny fur exuded a sheen of health that masked the pain she still obviously felt in her damaged paw. Lazily, the vixen licked her lips and slowly extended the injured paw in front of her and in long languid movements started to lick herself. “Amazing really,” said Nunco. “How the circle of life continues. It was by good chance that our paths crossed initially and now it is through choice, albeit an unconscious one on the part of the vixen, that we meet again.”

“Do you think she smells the fish, or has she just been following our scent?” asked Electra. 
“That surely is a choice the vixen made then, isn’t it?” asked Prostremo 
“Well that’s the thing, I think it is actually instinct,” said Nunco.

Electra resonded, “Is it not choice that separates us so-called sentient beings from animals like our fox over there? In fact I choose to call her Sophie, as her fur reminds me of my little darling’s hair. I suppose it is another way of keeping the happy memories alive.”

“Did we have a choice” said Prostremo. “When we freed her from the trap? There was no way, in all conscience, that we could have left her there to suffer.”

“I suppose conscience is a good way of describing sentience,” added Preteritus, not wanting to be left out of the discussion. “And yes you did have a choice to free Sophie. I suppose our choice was linked to how we would feel if we did not do it as well as the feeling of satisfaction and self-worth we got from freeing her.”
“A bit like the twins peaks of motivation!” said Nunco.
“Oh yes!” said Preteritus with a twinkle in his eye.

“Pre, do you ever think of anything that does not involve some form of lust?” asked Electra.
“To continue,” said Nunco, ignoring Preteritus’ little outbreak, “we are all motivated by desire. Knowing what that desire is, is key to identifying the path we will take to create a more fulfilling life for ourselves and the ones around us.

“Given that desire drives most of what we want as human beings, it is interesting to understand that there are two factors that influence that desire. These are pain and pleasure, hence the name; twin peaks of motivation.”

“Wasn’t there a guy called Mas something, who talked about that sort of stuff?” asked Electra. “I seem to remember two levels -  I think it was deficiency and growth. Isn’t that something like what you are talking about?”

“Very good Electra, you are bang on. Maslov talked about five different levels, and he grouped the four lower levels into deficiency needs and the top level into growth needs. As far as I can remember, the five levels, starting at the lowest were; physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem and finally the growth one was called self-actualisation.

“In fact there were many philosophers who sought to distinguish between humans’ desires and those of animals, like our friend Sophie over there. Indeed, one of the oldest religions or teachings, on which a lot of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is based on, namely Kabbalah, spoke about three levels of desire.

“The first level of desire, and please excuse the reference here Pre, was rooted in what is known as animal lust; in other words, the primal urges that keep us alive and functioning as a race.
“I suppose a bit like Sophie then?” asked Electra.

“Yes indeed,” answered Nunco. “However, the human still can operate with rational thought, even at this level, so the level of cunning would be greater than Sophie’s.

“Moving on to the second level, they talk about fulfilling drives, such as honour, power, prestige – all very ego-based desires. While the first two levels of desire are towards gratification of self and material goods, the third level is more to do with rational thought. Indeed, it seems to match in with Maslov’s growth level.”

“But how are those levels concerned with moving away from pain?” asked Preteritus, “and while I can understand that Sophie was obviously struggling to get out of the Gin Trap, how does her following us, albeit in search of a nice morsel of fish, fit in with her moving away from pain?”
“Would you agree that she would be in pain, if she went hungry?” asked Nunco

“So, in search of a bit of grub,” said Preteritus. “You are saying that she is not actually after the food, it is rather that she is moving away from the pain of being hungry? That doesn’t make sense, how the heck could a fox rationalise all of that?”

“That is exactly the point of the philosophers!” said Nunco. “She can’t rationalise, just like you are rationalising now. In fact the greatest threat to a person’s happiness is when they stop questioning what they could be doing with their lives and they fall into the routine trap of just existing.”

Not really bothered by all this high-falutin chit-chat, albeit full of significant meaning to humans, the vixen got up and slowly limped about 10 paces closer, her nose twitching as the fish-laden smoke drifted in her direction, gentle wisps floating above the ground.

Prostremo reached down and picked one of the sticks, skewering the smallest fish, and removed it gingerly from the fire. The skin of the fish was blackened and gently blistered, and Prostremo let out a yell as he burnt his finger trying to prise it off the stick.

The vixen started, alert to danger, but didn’t actually move any further away. In fact, she crouched down on her belly and sidled forward a few more paces.
“You better let it cool down a minute, Pro,” said Preteritus. “We don’t want the vixen to have a bust up paw on one side and blistered lips on top of it!”

Pausing for a moment, in an effort to let what could obviously have been taken as a slight on his intelligence slide over his head, Prostremo thanked Preteritus for his concern for the vixen and removed a chunk of the fish, which was stuck on to the stick. Fine fish bones could be seen sticking out of the proud flesh.
“Is it okay for a fox to eat those bones?” asked Electra.

“We shall soon see,” said Prostremo, as he expertly launched the chunk of cooked fish flesh in a gentle arc, landing about three paces in front of Sophie.

The fox jumped back, her teeth bared as she considered this development. However, the whiff of the fish soon overcame any hesitation and she quickly moved forward and started sniffing the piece, as though sizing up her prey.

Sophie greedily wolfed down the chunk, and eyed the camp fire greedily, licking her lips.
“I guess it’s the fish she’s after,” said Prostremo, throwing another piece a few paces in front of the first, enticing the vixen closer. “And not your body, Pre and don’t even think about calling Electra here a vixen, I think you might end up with a severely bruised and thick lip!”

While the aroma of the fish was enticing the vixen to boldness, her own scent was meanwhile causing its own issues. Next minute, a rabbit bolted out of the heather in a clear state of extreme agitation.
“Which will she go for?” asked Preteritus.

“Before your ego starts blowing up,” said Prostremo. “I would say us, and that is purely down to the fact that our cooked fish can’t run as fast as that rabbit. But hey, let’s take a bet on it.”
“My money is on the rabbit,” said Preteritus.
“You’re on!” said Prostremo. “Let’s see who wins.”
To be continued next week
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