Reading the signs: Goats’ emotional literacy


An Indian billy, having a think. Nothing gruff here.

If summer’s book end on Monday closed what is known in England as the silly season, then a report published this morning must be deemed serious research and gives something of a fillip to those who have never seen animals as anything but sentient beings.

A study conducted by Dr Alan McElligott of Queen Mary, University of London and Natalia Alburquerque of University of Sao Paulo opens ‘new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals’. It found that at the country’s only caprine refuge – Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, in Kent – the ruminants responded to pictures of smilingly cheerful faces over those with a grumpy demeanour.

Why does this matter? All pet owners would gamble their souls to assert their pets not only understand but love them, so this really ain’t news. Well, seemingly it is.

In order to take seriously what we all know intuitively to be true, scientific research must be undertaken. And naturally, single data-point extrapolation would render its conclusion void. So we shalln’t do that.

Rather, let us consider how rational is it in the absence of corroborating data [by which we mean that which maps onto the metaphysic of reality] baldly to deny any possibility all living creatures enjoy access to processes necessary to leading the fullest lives? If we term animals as dim because they don’t understand humans – which gives permission to odd people to brutalize their beasts somehow – then the logic demands accepting the counter-factual that we are dim in virtue of not understanding them.

Animals are sensitive to things where our senses are blunt. Was it not the case birds silenced themselves and animals galloped inland in advance of 2004 Tsunami? Have animals managed their affairs such that each community lives in peace alongside one another? Do whales need telephones to speak to others thousands of miles away? Seemingly, an Elephants’ Graveyard is a mythical notion but animals have a sense of their own mortality, taking themselves off for a dignified death. 

What humans lack is abundant in animals and vice versa. The logic of judging one group superior as a result seems flawed. All of us have gifts and abilities, undiminished by lack of others.

Reading signs and acting on that information is available in every living creature, enlarging the modality of emotional literacy. Nanny knows best when the kids are united. [Do stop. Ed]  


Lean on me


© Scott Merrylees                                                                     Gauthier Ganaye

Emotional resilience has a brand new Poster Pin-Up. Gauthier Ganaye is Barnsley Football Club’s chief exec.

He learnt of a supporter’s depression and wrote him an empathic, supportive letter encouraging his efforts to overcome the black dog of his spirits.

Splen-bloomin’-dacious. Or, Spectemur Agendo should we say? He has taken the club’s motto to heart for we judge him by his acts.

This recently-Thirty year old Frenchman has risen fast in a sector which, hitherto, has seldom been able to yodel its credentials in acknowledging validation of human-ness.

Perhaps his success is bound to the kind of man he is? How we  do something is how we do everything, after all. C’est tellement beau que nous trouvions l’humanité dans le football.

It’s far too early to quip the lean times of the sport are over but with the Southgates and, now, Ganayes of the world featuring high in the football firmament, mebbie there is reason to hope imaginative compassion comes to inform how we lean on each other and the high-scoring sense of so-doing?

Green papers, White flags


© Richard Hanson                                              Park Hill Estate, Sheffield

Social housing could be such a beacon. The green paper published today aims among other things “to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords …” This seems important. Yet, there is something missing from the five core themes, alas: to build structures that make maximal use of renewable technologies.

If we can power homes through clean energy – solar panels, wind turbines, geo-thermal rods, Archimedes screws – then what’s stopping us? [Don’t say Cash: cost-benefit analysis is clear] Building new, wherever it’s done, still doesn’t have sustainable technologies sunk into the foundations of planning. This seems odder than a former foreign secretary behaving as a toddler and still being taken seriously.

The default position for design and construction has to evolve, doesn’t it? New Towns are planned: never once is mentioned how they might harmonize with the ecology by drawing directly from it. The nay-sayers flip-up like jack-in-the-boxes to denounce the ability of renewables to meet demand yet concede something must be done. It’s astounding how vested interests trickle out truth amid streams of bilge.

In the next Blogos, we shall post a graph of data which shows just how straightforward focussing utilities’ supply from renewable sources could be. And remember, intention matters. If kindness informs rational action, it generates its own energy such that housing estates would begin with and evolve an underlying positiveness.

Why is this uppermost in the mind? How many times in the past two months have people just sitting in their cars responded to requests to cut their engines with ‘what I do doesn’t matter’? The majority are happy to, saying they hadn’t noticed or yes, they really should. Slivers of resistance come mostly from 30-somethings who justify it running with dismal thin arguments: the one which has me hooting is “I need it for the air-con”.

They seem suffocatingly unaware of the irony.

New form of a dress?


Image Hermaphroditus – you’ll never guess whose child*

We live in a Post-Gender Age.

Mebbie it is an opportunity to refresh or swell the language? Or, see it as an imperceptible turn of the wheel that rotates in light of there being no new ideas, no original thought? … Nothing new under the sun.

For aeons, Western culture has looked to ancient Greece for intellectually civilizing forms and to the Levant for spiritual leadership. Since 4th century BC, therefore, cultural mores have accommodated notions of there being a balance within every individual of he-ness and she-ness to wit it follows the existential neutrality of It-ness.

Image           a Rick Owens dress

Consulting Monsieur Roget (without a Thesaurus, where would we be?), of the many sections on Relations one is Abstract with sub-sections Identity, Contrariety, Non-&-Uniformity, Difference: but still, unavailable was a word for It-ness.

When two things stand in contrast to one another, there exists in the space between … a something. In terms of humanity and its sense of self, this may be where It-ness is manifest?

For all those who have lived in the shadow of historic binary, the shattering relief their Being is at last acknowledged must echo through them. This is an opportunity for the rest of us to expand the perimeter of thought and consideration: I’m not sure whether LGBTQ communities are peaceful with having a letter for an identifier but at least it starts to recognize the rich spectrum of life. As I’m a newcomer to all this, I intend to listen to know better, ultimately, how to say Hallo.

* Hermes and Aphrodite

Rightness of wrongness Wrongness of rightness


Timothy Bateson 1926 – 2009                               As an older actor, he gave a most affecting Mr Dick in the 1974 BBC serialization of David Copperfield. As a young man, he won a scholarship to Wadham, Oxford.

I love being wrong. It means another thing’s about to reveal itself, better to be understood.

It was shocking to realize some years ago that mine is neither a popular perspective nor, if actually grasped, one to secure empathic acknowledgement. Indeed, someone to whom the idea of my ambivalence towards being right struck him as proof of imbecility withdrew from the professional friendship lest tainted by the association.

What does it mean to be wrong? To lack true knowledge, to misunderstand the facts, to see the world differently from the majority? To know there’s more to discover?

Perhaps better to ask what does it mean to be right?

Rightness appears to hold to itself a moral, intellectual authority ~ a necessary and sufficient condition to silence opposing views. It is right until the fashion, framework or facts change. It infers we know that of which we speak.

Shutting down dialogue seems far worse than being mistaken. And is it just me or does your heart also shake a bit when someone dismisses your concern in virtue of the economic sense it may or mayn’t make?

Mr Dick was never mean, false or cruel and Betsy Trotwood valued his clarity though the world found him a simpleton. Weaponizing being right doesn’t place Right on your side: it merely makes brittle that which ought to have movement and flexibility.

Answers oughtn’t close down deeper questions. Greater expectation may be captured in continuing to wonder?

[You knew, ‘ course, the Viking word for responsibility is ansvar]

💥 David Copperfield was written and published through May 1849 to November 1850. Great Expectations was first published in serial form in Dickens’ weekly periodical All the Year Round, from December 1860 to August 1861.

New word alert – Avianity


© Derek Eland                                                                            Little Langdale II

Rather splendidly, it seems gardeners aren’t the only ones for whom the light rain yesterday was a blessing. This day dawned and by Six, the sun was already at 30° in the sky and fiercely warm. But what made this morning different from the last was the response from the song birds who’ve been dejectedly mute of late.

Euphoric chirruping, while not cacophonous as April’s claxon, was boogyingly buoyant and appeared thrilled by the refreshment of their surroundings. Here’s a link to what we said then.

The dry, hard earth’s yielding few slugs and while it’s a less sticky walk if you’re bare-foot through the meadows, it means the birds have less to eat. [Indeed, voles have had a hard time of it too: none seen since February’s glut. Nuff said.]

One need only listen to the avianity billowing from trees, bushes and hedges to ponder the infinite fragility of balance of which humanity is the custodian. Birds: sentient, alive, alert, react as any other creature when their existence is enrosied. Their expression of joy is audible – while a grey heron simply bounced along the rooves of canal boats such was its rejuvenation.

Thus, rather than an exception, wouldn’t it be simpler to make kindfulness-to-our-surroundings the rule and do what we can to nourish Earth and her atmosphere? Replenish: strike a chord?

Sophisticating football


© BBC                                                                                                  HMS Victory

It is heartening to listen to sports commentors speak of the emotional intelligence of Gareth Southgate and his approach to managing the young England football team.

When he was appointed in November 2016, we noted his manner and self-knowledge bode well for the future of English football.

While Croatia’s fair victory curtailed England’s voyage of self discovery, this “team in the making” as Barry Davies described them on the radio, will set sail on others, taking with them fuller awareness of their potential, fuller wind in their sails.

From a dispassionate stance, it’ll be interesting to discern the team’s current mettle by virtue of its last match to determine Third/Fourth place at the World Cup.

Even if one is not bitter in life, there is still danger to become sour which is why acceptance and release matters. Unless this casting off occurs, moving on can’t happen. With Southgate at the helm, in England we can now expect every man will do his duty.