Opossum Myth or reality?

Most of the lesser complicated creatures, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and reptiles probably have a worldview across the lines of ‘it just is’ and accept whatever comes along – go with the flow. But as soon as you think about the comparatively higher and more complex animals, like mammals and birds, then mind complexity gets such that to a greater or lesser degree, intellect and the capacity to think and figure things out has to be taken under account.

I strongly suspect that mammals and birds create a personal worldview mythology that explains for their pride all that they see and experience daily.

Further, for those animals that develop a direct or indirect relationship with humans they need to additionally develop a personal mythology that’s understandable within their larger worldview that puts us in their Big Picture. This mythology, their POV is going to be grossly incorrect of course, but they don’t know that. They, in all honesty can not comprehend the sum total of these experiences they share directly with human activity and so to some degree or other they create a mythical worldview that somehow explains what people do in their context. However, sometimes humans feature just indirectly and so their POV doesn’t actually involve humans in almost any shape, manner or form.

Hence the purpose of this little essay is to exemplify these animals (i.e. – birds and mammals) that interact directly or indirectly with people (at a very good, indifferent, bad or god-awful way) have a somewhat human-centred mythology even when they are not aware of it. Taking one specific animal for instance, consider another tale of the possum.

I have a possum that visits my back courtyard overnight. Presumably the possum has not spotted me; it being a monster of the night and I being a creature of the afternoon. It has been a generally long and bitterly cold Australian winter here in the nation’s capital, Canberra, therefore, in compassion for a fellow life-form that has a far tougher life than that, I chose to leaving out for it in the early evening an apple. In the morning following, it was gone – that the apple that’s. Now I, as a smart human, know all the facts of the subject. I buy an apple; I leave the apple out; the possum finds out the apple and eats it. However, I can not help but wonder, from the point of view of the possum, what exactly does it make of this nightly present of an apple, an apple which looks where there is no apple tree for miles around?

Some assumptions have been in order. When something out of the ordinary occurs, it creates an impression. Translated, the sun comes up and the sun sets – nothing from the ordinary. I doubt if the possum much ponders this simple fact of life. It’s warm in the summer; cold in the winter; a few times it rains; many days it doesn’t rain. But that daily apple hasn’t been part and parcel of its own worldview mythology – till now.

So, something new, beneficial but unexpected comes into play. Does the possum down it to good luck, good luck, clean living, being in the perfect place at the perfect time, or does it think deeper than that?

Now an apple appears for the first time on the ground it forages over – unusual but strange things occur. An apple looks on the exact same area of earth every day – the identical spot without benefit of an apple tree. That’s not in keeping with the ordinary expectations and experiences of our possum. Because this is not something natural and ordinary within the possum’s worldview, then this must be something outstanding; this really is something bewitching; this can be something paranormal; this is something unnatural. Perhaps there’s a supernatural Possum Deity that looks after possums in times of need, like in the wintertime when meals generally and apples in particular are few and far between.

And so our possum possibly develops this idea of something larger than the natural world it’s used to. The possum perhaps develops a possum mythology of a Possum Deity that appears after all possums, like itself. It has to be ‘all of possums’ since I’ll assume our possum has no understanding of great possums vs. bad possums with just the former becoming rewarded with an unaccounted for apple (possum manna from heaven).

But perhaps it’s seen me by the seclusion of its tree put down the apple, in which case perhaps I’m the Good Possum Deity. If it sees other people are that they deities also, even though not possum deities?

Since this regularly occurring apple appears in roughly the same geographical spot night after night, could our hungry possum attribute something extraordinary for this patch of (my) garden, (its) courtyard turf?

Now the possum’s perspective won’t be one based around speech and it will not be able to convey its worldview mythology to other possums. Rather its senses will be contingent upon its own five senses, most prominently vision in all likelihood. It may imagine, visualise in its mind, a few super-sized (Santa Claus kind deity) possum bringing apples with no words for ‘apple’ or ‘possum’ or ‘deity’ or ‘gift giver’ or even ‘individual’. It wouldn’t have words for ground or ‘Sacred Site’, rather a mental image that this patch of ground is extra-special. This kind of image, instead of the words we’d use, wouldn’t be out of the question.

Okay, you know and I understand there is no Possum Deity, nothing mysterious or supernatural is happening, there’s absolutely no Sacred Site. I know what’s happening – some farmer, hundreds of miles away sells their crop of apples into a company who hires a distributor who trucks them to Canberra and they wind up in that company’s local supermarkets. You know that, and I understand that, but we can not expect the possum to know that. Whether this possum communicates with fellow possums (not that it can), it is not likely to relate a story of a compassionate human purchasing an apple a day and leaving it outside to be devoured by possums, much less have knowledge of the far away farmer, firm, Centurian,  distributor, truck, grocery store, and all of the infrastructure that implies, etc..

It would be fascinating to converse with that possum and discover precisely what its present worldview mythology is, even though that is beyond our way. But, I’d bet that whatever it is, it is wrong! Still, let’s walk a mile from its paws and try to view things like it would. That much we could do. I’ve tried to accomplish this, but the odds are I am wrong oo. There is no true meeting of the minds here. Even if I arrived face-to-face together with the possum, I couldn’t converse with it; I couldn’t convince it that its POV was wrong.

However, just enjoy every possum has their own distinctive worldview mythology, so too does each and every individual have a unique outlook on life, the universe and everything. The distinction is that in many cases we can convey that perspective to others of our species.

The point now is when our companion mammals possess a flawed POV of their worldview mythology, one that we know is wrong, but they don’t, one which may or may not comprise humans; do we people have in turn a faulty POV when it comes to our worldview mythologies? The parallels between mammals (like our possum) and humans and people collective worldview mythologies we all have might suggest that we also have some flawed perceptions about life, the universe and all that need further and continuing exploration and elaboration. In that broader context, maybe we could also have compassion with possums inasmuch as we also might have faulty worldview mythologies in the opinion of things superior to us.

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