The sheepadoodle philosopher
and colonialist pet talking buttons
Bi-weekly antics, week of 10/12
In some alternate 10/12/22 Wednesday, I’ve sent you all a recycled essay from my not-so-distant past in place of fresh new words (like these).
It is a fine essay. Not outdated, totally evergreen. But it is a respite. Well deserved, but an escape no less from my bi-weekly antics.
It’d have been the sort of generalized post content creators™ send on days they’re burnt out, or depressed, or uninspired, or on and on it goes (ya’ll know the deal).
Not because I don’t love this little internet bond we’ve sparked. I’m sure it’s precious and dear to everyone involved. Omg, of course.
But then something in me fought the urge to feed ya’ll a re-post.
It’s likely the same part of me caught in a chokehold by decades of capitalistic indoctrination.
But also! It is the part of me that many of us have that says,
“Wait. Do this thing for you. You matter enough for this thing.”
So today I’d like to talk about the tip of the iceberg of thought that is epiphany, and why we owe it to ourselves to create simply for ourselves, when sharing feels inaccessible.
I started Jasper for several reasons, but I must admit, mainly it was to discover what writing freely, playfully, in my own voice truly looks and feels like. Unfiltered by outward expectation or influence (a la other publications or editors).
I’ve spoken to several creative friends lately who feel especially stunted these day. Uninspired, too heavy, too tired, too lightheaded to create for their prospective audiences. I find myself in this group often.
Art is sustenance.
Good writing can be nourishing.
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And if you are creative, art feeds a part of yourself that is then inspired to create something of your own, and then goes the ever-flowing process of inspiration from artist to artist and so on.
Though, I don’t know if we often consider that the art we create can also feeds ourselves?
Have you ever gone a long time without creating something as a creative person? Maybe because you feel too low, but you find it only makes you feel lower?
Art not just nourishes the experiencer of that art, but also the artist. And this point is one I think we ignore maybe too much. This was my epiphany.
“Am I nourishing myself? Am I full? Enough for an overflow of art for someone else?”
That’s the tip of the iceberg, anyway.
The ice block beneath cold water of that iceberg?
It is every single poem, short story, essay I’ve ever written that has inched me closer and closer to this version of me that wants to share with you.
This includes every single edit, shared or unshared. Even my private journal entries. All of which have built a tremendous, unbreakable foundation of knowledge and inspiration I can always tap into, but it’s so easily forgotten because it hides.
How do we tap into this well of knowledge? Read other’s work? Watch other’s shows or movies? Look at other people’s works of art? Journal more? Force ourselves to write more?
That, I don’t know.
But something about me writing today, which I’d first planned not to do, feels nourishing, like a thoughtful act of self care.
Art isn’t just a conversation between artists and experiencer, or writer and reader, it is first a conversation between artist and work.
And I wasn’t having those conversations with myself this week.
And I will say, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break. I think we all should when and if we can.
In fact, feel free to laugh the next time I post an obvious respite article or essay on this here newsletter because it will surely happen.
But there’s something to be said about choosing to search for solace in your own creations rather than outside of them. Maybe sometimes that’s the wave, too?
And if you do not nourish yourself you cannot be full enough to spill over honest work to those who care to experience it.
I’m truly so grateful that ya’ll take the time to read Jasper. I hope you continue, and I hope you feel a least a little bit of these words, but in moments that you don’t, in moments where it doesn’t resonate, I as an artist have to have a strong foundation in my own conversations with myself that it…doesn’t matter?
As a practice, you know?
Okay. Now let’s talk about pets. Ya’ll familiar with Bunny? The adorable, IG-famous sheepadoodle known for having existential conversations with her person, Alexis Devine?
Bunny “talks” through a well-researched soundboard made up of little buttons.
In fact, thanks to elaborate research by Devine and others, Bunny could speak 92 human words as of 2021. I’m sure it’s way more now.
Devine asks Bunny all sorts of questions. Bunny responds by clicking on one or more of these buttons featuring some pre-recorded word until she’s officially said her piece.
Brilliant. Absolutely endearing, crushingly precious.
In one of Bunny’s most popular videos, she asks the heavy, philosophical question, “Dog, what is dog?”
I know. Wild. And the internet goes wild too, calling Bunny the most intelligent dog they’ve ever seen. Bunny, Thee Philosopher Dog.
Being the ever-curious thinker with a fur baby of my own, I was beyond intrigued.
So I looked into these “Fluent Pet” buttons, legitimately planning to buy them for my guy, Mojo.
Like wow, what if Mojo could “talk” too! But then I thought about it more.
Mojo, the thoughtful mutt he is, does this thing when he wants to go outside where he boops my leg hard as fuck until I look at him, then nods towards the door and back at me until I stand, then walks over to his harness by the door and boops that and looks at the door again, until said request is authorized.
He also does this thing when he’s hungry where he boops the shit out of his dog bowl then nods at me, then it, until I comply.
And, what I’m trying to say is…Mojo does talk.
No, he doesn’t press buttons that relay the human English translation of his thoughts but he communicates. He gets his point across quite clearly, actually.
This got me wondering. And if you’re new here, that means I’m about to jump into some odd though possibly sensible shenanigans of thought.
It’s likely that your pet, whether dog or cat or rabbit (or snake!) has established some form of communication with you that suits their natural inclinations.
Our pets do speak. They do communicate, talk, express themselves.
So why do we as humans feel the need to project our standards of communication on our pets?
This all reminds me of an interesting study on apes that showed they can learn human sign language fairly simply, but even after learning, they do not ask questions.
Scientists have decided this means apes have a distinct threshold when it comes to their mental abilities.
But, why is this the assumption? Why not that in the way apes communicate, they don’t need or feel the need to ask questions? Or that their curiosity’s are peaked in a different way?
I’d like to challenge the idea that humans are the intellectual authority on all earthly communication. Just feels a bit presumptive to me, no?
The arrogance of humans to admit over 80 percent of the earth’s species are still unknown to us, yet we, also the species who knows so little about the literal ocean (71 percent of our earth!) feel we have the authority to project our assumptions about intelligence onto species outside of our own? It’s wild to me.
Not that we might not sometimes be right. But we just learned that cats, who are amazing and I have many opinions about, actually do enjoy human interaction. It took us decades. I and many other cat-havers could have told you that.
We’re also just now learning that plants might actually have thoughts. Just now.
I say that to say, we’re a real haughty bunch to be so damned ignorant.
Love us, but c’mon.
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It’s interesting, and strange, and perhaps hinders our studies overall because we approach each study with such superior bias.
Now, I don’t think there’s necessarily harm in training cats and dogs to “speak English” with little buttons. Adorable videos and your pet learning a new skill? Probably generally victimless, sure.
But I do wonder why, in so many cases, we tend to ask, “Is a dog smart? How smart is this dog?”
Instead of, “Are humans smart enough to understand how to communicate with dogs on a deeper level?”
I don’t know. And before I sound like some Peta-crazed narc (fuck Peta), I wanna be clear.
I know humans created dogs as we know it. I know that humans are atop the animal kingdom for several reasons. We can have dozens of discussions about this.
But as a Black person with growing knowledge of indigenous human-animal relations, where animals are recognized as equals shown care and respect even when hunted for food… I think there’s something colonialist and harmful about current animal study, that is, dare I say,
…akin to colonialist white supremacy.
It’s giving, “You obviously poop wrong, here’s a toilet.” Only to find hundreds of years later that sitting rather than squatting is actually not natural for humans.
Are we better than other animals, or just different?
Are we smarter, or we just have diverse thought processes? Are apes incapable of asking questions, or do they not have the same needs as humans to ask them? Or, do they ask in a unique way we humans don’t yet understand?
Why is your way automatically the right way?
I’m going to leave it there.
As always, thank you so very much for your time and care. I appreciate you. Have a good week!
P.S.: Here’s a very good photo of my dog Mojo because we all deserve happiness.