Skip to main content

Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

See other formats

courtship display that they become oblivious of danger. The males
of that huge bird of the grouse tribe, the capercaillie, have an extra-
ordinary courtship ceremony which they carry out at daybreak in1 the
branches of a favourite tree. While they are in the ecstasy of this
passionate performance a man can easily creep up within range; and
it is by this method that in certain countries many are shot.
Again, birds seem as subject as men to the emotion of jealousy.
Rival cocks may fight to the death. One remarkable case with
aiptive parrakcels is quite human in its incidents. Two cocks and a
hen were in one cage. After much squabbling, one night one of the
cocks killed the other: upon which the hen, who had hitherto rather
favoured this bird, turned upon him and might have killed him too
if they had not been separated.
Then bird-mind has suflicient subtlety to indulge in play. Dr. Gill
of Cape Town records seeing a hooded crow fly up into the air, drop
a small object it was carrying, swoop after it, croaking loudly, catch
it in mid air, and repeat the performance over and over again with
the greatest evidence of enjoyment. And tame ravens often display
what seems a real sense of humour, though it must be admitted
humour of rather a low order. A pair of them will combine to tease
a cat or dog, one occupying its attention from the front, while the other
steals round behind to tweak its tail and hop off with loud and de-
lighted squawkings. They will play tricks on each other; in an
aviary, one raven of a pair has been seen to slink up from behind
when its mate was sitting on a low perch, and then reach up to
knock the perching bird's foot from under it, with evident malicious
But in all these varied manifestations of emotion, birds still differ
in a fundamental way from ourselves. Being without the power of
conceptual thought, their emotion, while occupying their life with a
completeness which is perhaps rarer with us, is not linked up with the
future or the past as in a human mind. Their fear is just fear: it is
not the fear of death, nor can it anticipate pain, nor become an in-
gredient of a lasting "complex," They cannot worry or torment
themselves. When the fear-situation is past, the fear just disappears*
So, as we have seen, with their maternal instincts. The bird mother
is not concerned with the fate of an individual offspring, as a human
mother would be concerned about Johnny's career or Tommy's poor
health. She is concerned just to give vent to her instincts imperson-
ally, as it were; and when the young grow up and her inner physi-
ology changes, there is no intellectual framework making a continuing
personal or individual interest possible.
H                                      105