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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Playing Tag and Tit for Tat

Yesterday, I started out to clip Bow's nails. but he wanted to play chase, instead. So I decided to film our game of tag, and in the process, I forgot that I was still holding onto the scissors. So it turned out I was running with scissors, something you should never try at home!

I am probably not the best person at interpreting body language, but just as I insisted that Bow learn to spell out what he wants, he has always insisted that I should also try to read his body language. Over the years, even though I may still seem obtuse to Bow, I believe that I have gotten better at reading simple non-verbal cues -- not just Bow's. I have gotten better at paying attention to those things in humans, too.

Bow is a gentle playmate who is perfectly harmless if you respect his personal boundaries -- and if you insist that he respect yours. But most of that is not something we do with language alone. Yes, saying "no" when you don't like something is important, but if you don't back up that "no" with immediate action, then nobody -- least of all Bow --will take it seriously.

This is something that I found really difficult to explain to many interns, and it is one of the reasons I am reluctant to advertise an opening for an intern and caretaker for Bow. People have not been trained in the simple rules of tit-for-tat, and so they expect other countries not to invade them out of the kindness of their hearts, other people not to harass them just because it is not nice, and everybody to act PC -- or else, they will get a lecture ten years later about how they really hurt someone. And if they find that this does not work for them -- which invariably it doesn't -- they hold seminars and workshops on world peace, sexual harassment and anti-bullying.

No bully will ever be stopped unless we stand up to him right then and there, in the moment, and no rape was ever prevented by crying foul long after the statute of limitations has run. I'm sorry, but life does not work that way.

With Bow, as with every other person I know, you have to let him know right away if he's crossed a line. He respects boundaries, but you need to clearly signal where they are. If he does something you don't like, you have to respond strongly, but firmly, neither over-reacting nor just letting it happen. I tried to explain some of this to my interns years ago in this hub:

Right now, in the current political atmosphere, I do not feel I can impose the rules outlined above on anyone who has been socialized to fit in to today's society. Most people have been trained to submit to a violation of their boundaries, and then to complain about it afterwards. This policy leads to an escalation of the initiation of aggression over time throughout the society. When I try to speak out about this, I am shut down on social media.

I think maybe the problem goes all the way back to kindergarten. Everybody knows the Golden Rule, but it is being taught all wrong to American children right now. They are told to treat others in the way they would like to be treated, but they are not told what to do if others do not treat them that way. The tit-for-tat part has been left out. Here's how it was taught to me. When I was going off to kindergarten in Israel, my mother said to me:  "If anybody hits you, Aya,  you hit them right back -- only harder." I didn't particularly want to. I'm not a violent person. But she explained that it wasn't about what I wanted. She said it was my duty as a good person, because it would help other people, too. If everybody lived by this rule, I think it would save us all a lot of trouble.

If you nip aggression in the bud, it does not have to escalate. You have to react in real time to any small breach of your personal boundaries. At the same time, it is more than okay to engage in appropriate play, where you recognize friendly overtures. Bow loves to play tag, and you can watch the video and see the light way in which he does tag me, and you can see from his body language that he knows it's a game.

  Bow is a chimpanzee. He does have aggressive instincts. He's a natural bully, but he is also really easy to manage, and a joy to interact with, if you understand and properly apply tit-for-tat.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Grooming as Peace-Making

Yesterday afternoon,  while I was saying goodbye to Sword, who had come home for a visit for Fall Break, Bow rearranged the potties in his enclosure, putting both of them in the center of the room.

"Put them back where they belong!" I told him.

So then he proceeded to push each of them into the opposite corner from the one where it had been before, as if in an act of oppositional defiance.

I wasn't really angry about that, but I acted as if were very upset about it. "No, that's not where they go! You put them right back where they were!" So he did. (He knew exactly where they were supposed to be.)

After that, he tried to apologize to me, and then he decided to groom me very thoroughly. The noises he was making at the very beginning of the grooming session were part of his apology.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Persimmon for Bow

It is fall. The leaves are changing colors. 

And the persimmons are ripening and falling to the ground.

Many other animals are enjoying the persimmons, but I managed to snag one for Bow.

They say you should wait until after the first big frost to harvest the persimmons, but we have not yet had our first frost, and they are almost all gone. I see their seeds scattered on the road embedded in  animal droppings. And this one was so ripe that it split open and some of the juice dribbled on my hand.

Bow enjoyed the persimmon so much that this is all that was left of it in the end.

I'm glad we did not wait for the first frost. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Where are my Glasses?

It's been a strange weekend. On Saturday night, as I was driving to Licking to check my mail and get groceries, a deer bounded out in front of me on the road. It happened so fast that there was no time to hit the brake or swerve. It was almost as if the deer were on a suicide mission. Luckily, I had not yet speeded up to the full fifty-five miles per hour allowed on that road, and so the damage to my car was minimal. I was able to get to Licking, pick up my mail and drive to the grocery store. It was only when I was putting my groceries away that I noticed I had lost a lot of fluid under the engine, and the car was very overheated, so much so that at first it would not start. I managed to drive it to the mechanic's shop, and I got a ride home with my groceries and mail. So what could have been a big disaster was really minor.

I spent Sunday feeling a little more contemplative than usual.

In addition to the usual pictures of flowers, I started to take a series of selfies.  I wondered what would have happened if I had not made it safely home the previous night, and who would have taken care of my animals. I guess you might say I was really grateful to be alive.

I was also thinking about  what I needed to say about my proposal to change Libertarian Bylaws, and about the odd ways in which my motives for doing so had been questioned. So as I was thinking about how to reply, I also thought that series of self-portraits might be a good way to help represent who I am to those who clearly misunderstand my motives.

And even though I have taken plenty of selfies with my glasses on, I decided to leave my glasses off this time.

I put the glasses down on one of the support beams of the outer pen and proceeded to shoot some pictures of me on the swing. The fact that I had just discovered the timer on my iPhone camera also helped. Bow watched the proceedings sardonically from the sidelines. He knew he was not the star of this photo shoot, and he did not seem to mind.

I went back inside to work on the computer, and it took me a while to realize that I had left my glasses in the outer pen. But when I went out there to get them, they were not on the support beam, where I had left them.

"Where are my glasses?" I said out loud, to no one in particular. Then I looked at Bow. Silently, he handed them to me. 

They were perfectly intact. Whatever he did with them while I was not there, it did not damage the glasses in any way. That's something else to be grateful for.