Monday, February 24, 2020
The squirrel and the driver
In the 107 years since the automobile began being mass produced, the specific animal death ratios haven't changed. You still see more road kill in the form of deer, raccoon, possum, dogs and cats than you see squirrels.
One may casually assume this is due to the faster reflexes and movement of the squirrel, but who knows? Perhaps the squirrel has a slight advantage over the other animals in terms of intellectual ability to obviate. It does seem odd the way the squirrel will sometimes pause in the middle of the road, and then jet toward the curb just in time to avoid being squashed. It almost seems defiant.
Regardless, has anyone given any thought to what would happen if squirrels were suddenly given an intellectual capacity similar or equal to the drivers of the cars on the road?
To the squirrel, a car isn't a vehicle with a human driving. It's a large, noisy, smelly thing that will kill you with extreme prejudice if you linger too long in front of it. The squirrel has no conception of how and why the human drives the car, or that the human is even controlling it.
There are several layers of obfuscation between the squirrel's awareness and the driver's awareness. Although the squirrel and the driver are both occupying the same physical dimension, they might as well be in completely different universes.
The squirrel is thinking about nuts, nests, mates and survival in the most basic ways observed on our planet.
The driver of the car is also concerned about his or her own versions of those subjects, but along with those, there are thoughts about repairs needed for the car, an overdue project at work, a chemistry exam later in the week, programming algorithms that will most efficiently solve a seemingly intractable problem, dreams of a better (or worse) future, the Internet, a favorite book or TV show, the price of gas, the complexities of a personal relationship, the nostalgia being experienced by the song currently playing on the radio, etc.
The squirrel has absolutely zero conception of any of that.
So, back to my question: what would happen if squirrels suddenly had the ability to think as we do?
Everything from a complete absence of squirrel sightings on the road to unexpected giant pothole traps that catch drivers unaware and deposit them suddenly deep in a hole face first, with no way to get out of the car and back up on the road, as the hole was crafted with just the right distance to keep the doors closed.
I could certainly be wrong, but this is how I see it:
We're the squirrels, God is the driver of the car.
As long as we don't tempt fate, we're pretty much left to the parameters of our recognizable and mostly pleasant existence. We can enjoy our finite lives in our current form as much as we are willing to live within the parameters given to us. It's when we pause on the road, so to speak, that the possibility for misfortune increases way past its natural frequency.
It's when we start to imagine we're the driver in the car that things go awry. We may look at the car and think we'd love to be able to control that powerful thing, but once behind the wheel, we have no idea what we're doing.
The car is performing a function for the human that the squirrel lacks the ability to comprehend. That specific inability to comprehend is a gift to both the human and the squirrel, despite the potential danger to the squirrel via its ignorance.
Expressing the point of this essay in a different way:
Is life a chessboard and humans mere pawns to the whims of a capricious chess player?
At times, life appears to be moving us along, but if we think we're the ones choosing the squares, what's the pragmatic difference?
That may be arguable, but more importantly, when the game is over, what happens to the pieces?
Well, to the best of my limited knowledge, no chess player I know who loves chess would ever toss his or her chess set in the garbage.
Anyone who has actually read the entire Bible understands this.