We’ve got to feel it

Published 10:16 am Friday, December 7, 2012

Last week I separated my two horses for a few days, putting one at the pasture down the road and leaving the other here at home.

They are mares, which means they are inseparable, yet fussing with each other when together, and miserable when apart – not much different from teenage girls. When I went down to the barn that evening to feed Fiona, she was standing directly against the screen that separates her stall from Ruby’s stall. When they are both there, the mares each stand beside that screen wall, getting as close together as they can while being in separate stalls. I was touched by the sight of Fiona longing to feel Ruby’s presence; knowing full well her companion was not there.

I have heard that animals cannot distinguish between past, present and future very well. For them five minutes and five hours are quite similar. They live “in the moment.” This does not mean they do not remember, but they do so more on a sensory level. A sound or incident in the present may bring forth a reaction triggered by a similar experience from the past.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

We humans operate much more out of reason and thinking. We believe that we have evolved to our present superior state because of our intellect and reason. We believe that we have learned to be a more successful and responsible species because we draw our knowledge from the past and thus are able to perform better in the future. Not only can we live in the moment as can the animals, but we can mold our behavior upon lessons learned in the past, with an eye on how our actions will pan out in the future.

But I do believe we have not learned from the past.

History books get longer and longer, with enough information to help guide us safely through generations ahead. History books appeal to our intellect. They provide facts, and tell us of consequences. A few history books that I have read are brutally honest, but most historians sugar coat the most ugly facts in order to make the book palatable. The wonder of our memory helps too; humans tend to forget the most troubling facts of the past, which is why we think of the days of our grandparents as being the ‘good old days.’ The opposite of this forgetfulness is what returning soldiers are dealing with: TSD, traumatic stress disorder. The only cure for it is to suppress, then forget.