27 March 2019

a post in 5 quotes

Life is only worth living because we hope it will get better and we'll all get home safely.
 Deborah Levy

In psychology, the six basic emotion theory is very popular. It is is based on facial expression studies, and postulates that there are six emotions — anger and fear and so on — that we share with other species, and that we share them across the board. And that all of the other emotions [besides those six] must be uniquely human. So if you talk about, say, jealousy — that’s a human emotion, because it’s not on the list. Or love is not on the list. Even though we have quite a bit of evidence of the Oxytocin system [a bonding hormone] in other animals. There’s a lot of evidence that attachment and bonding occur in other species, of course.
But the more I think about it, I cannot name any emotion that is uniquely human. There are maybe emotions related to religion — let’s say spirituality — but even for that, I cannot exclude that animals have those kinds of feelings. Who says they don’t? In humans, religious feelings are not expressed in the face. That kind of emotion is not visible. And if emotions are not visible, how can we exclude that it exists in other species?
Frans de Waal

When a boundary in the known world— say, a geographical one . . . —becomes instead a beckoning horizon, the leading edge of a farther destination, then a world one has never known becomes an integral part of one’s new universe. 
 Barry Lopez 

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The nature of the sadness that is and will be experienced in the face of the effects of global warming . . . struck me as unlike anything in memory or imagination. It occupies an entirely new category. Though it may contain aspects of malaises we know quite well, like regret, nostalgia, penthos, depression and despair, there [is] an unnamed something else; it seems as a whole to be other than conditions we are familiar with, other even than these in novel arrangement, with an unidentified intensifier.
Tim Lilburn


  1. Re. de Waal. A bit of a cop-out. Aren't emotions indistinguishable from thought itself? Never mind other species, let's confine ourselves to our own because the variations are surely infinite. Can determination be an emotion? Persistence? May warmth towards, say, a painting depend on whether we have a full belly or are starving to death at the time? Being conscious of thinking about emotion could be an emotional experience - what a cleverclogs I am.

    Just passing through. Obviously not concentrating.

    1. Well, pigeons have been found to be able to distinguish between the paintings of Matisse and Picasso, i.e. not just trained to recognise individual ones but when looking at unique paintings: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1334394/)

      The full de Waal text is here: https://tinyurl.com/yy2ok93m

      But of course, you are clever, we all are.

  2. I love these quotes. I think I am experiencing the sadness that Tom Lilburn describes. When we were driving the 350 mile journey home last week, we turned on the car radio and were delighted for an hour long interview with Frans de Waal. Such an interesting conversation.

  3. Wonderful food for thought. I especially love the quote about the boat and the immensity of the sea, and the way it speaks to the propelling force of imagination.

  4. "....the endless immensity of the sea."

    yes, o yes

  5. A totem post. May we all get home safely.

  6. I love that quote by Frans de Waal. No matter how much we study them, we cannot really know what animals experience. I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt -- that they feel and know more than they're letting on.