Reactive Subtractive

I spent yesterday wandering the Whispering Forest looking for a lost calf. 

A little black calf can hide so very well in amongst the shadows and the logs and the undergrowth and the swampy hollows.

It was like looking for Wally on a ‘Where’s Wally’ page 300 acres in size. 

I love the opportunity to wander the Whispering Forest, named for the sound of the breeze through the trees. The air seems full of secrets and ideas drifting like birds from tree to tree. 

And spiders and snakes. 

I find one big red belly black snake. 

I stop and make clicking noises with my tongue.

Finally she discovers my presence, looks, turns, and glides gracefully away. 

But the location of the calf remains an enigma. 

I’m not surprised. 

I’m no evolutionary biologist, but it seems to me that small calves have their amygdala turned off. 

They lay low and remain still, and sometimes you don’t find them until you virtually trip over them as they lay completely hidden in between tussocks of grass. 

My guess is that nature has bestowed upon them a gift of jettisoning the fear response:

“There is no use in trying to run until you can use your legs to outrun!”

When they learn to use their legs properly, suddenly that switch is flicked, and boy! You should see how fast they can run, tail in the air and kicking out their legs as they race across the paddock. 

I’ve often wondered: if you can flick the amygdala on, could it be possible to flick it back off again?

The scent of threat in humans triggers an amygdaloid reaction. 

The possibility of an existential challenge triggers an aggressive response, be it fight or flight, even where there is no existential danger. 

That threat can be as simple as an acknowledgement of error which threatens our belief in our own performance perfection. 

What if we could turn that fear response off so that we could embrace the change required to prevent such errors in the future?

Would that be an improvement, a step forward in our evolutionary biology?

Out in the bush I’m losing hope. 

I find dingo tracks in the creek bed. A set coming over, a set going back. 

An abandoned newborn calf is easy pickings for a hungry wild dog. 

I walk home, forlorn, through dapples of shade with birdsong like Mozart in my ears. 

In the evening the calf appears of its own accord, tail wagging as it suckles it’s mother. 

All is well as I sit with a beer on the verandah and watch the setting sun glow red over a herd embalmed with bliss. 

Pete!


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