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Octopus Empire – PRINT Journal

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The “blind intelligence” by which a tree orients to the sunshine with a purpose to survive is a form of hard-wired sentience, intricate and interconnected and aglow with surprise we’re solely simply starting to find. However it isn’t consciousness as we perceive it— that miraculous emergent phenomenon arising someplace alongside the spectrum of sentience to endow creatures with the flexibility not solely to pay attention to our environment, not solely to react to them with automated actions, however to answer them with some measure of foresight, which presupposes some measure of hindsight, which in flip presupposes some measure of self-awareness, which culminates in qualia— the set of subjective expertise that’s the central truth of consciousness, the fundament of our lives. For the overwhelming majority of the evolutionary historical past of our species, we now have assumed that people alone have consciousness. Descartes, who so enormously leapt the scientific methodology ahead by pioneering empiricism, additionally paralyzed our understanding of the thoughts together with his dogmatic declamation that non-human animals are automata — fleshy robots ruled by mechanistic reflexes, insentient and incapable of feeling. It took 4 centuries for this dogma to be upended after a younger primatologist started her paradigm-shifting work in Gombe Nationwide Forest in 1960. Regardless of the tidal wave of dismissal and derision from the scientific institution, Jane Goodall endured, revolutionizing our understanding of consciousness and of our place within the household of life. Greater than half a century later, among the world’s main neuroscientists composed and co-signed the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, asserting {that a} huge array of non-human animals are additionally endowed with consciousness. The checklist named just one invertebrate species.

The octopus branched from our shared vertebrate lineage some 550 million years in the past to evolve into certainly one of this planet’s most alien intelligences, endowed with an astonishing distributed nervous system and able to recognizing others, of forming social bonds, of navigating mazes. It’s the Descartes of the oceans, studying methods to stay in its surroundings by trial and error— that’s, by primary empiricism. In the meantime, in these 550 million years, we developed into creatures that positioned themselves on the heart of the universe and atop the evolutionary ladder, solely to search out ourselves in an ecological furnace of our making and to reluctantly contemplate that we would not, in any case, be the head of Earthly intelligence.

That’s what Marilyn Nelson explores with nice playfulness and poignancy in her poem “Octopus Empire,” initially printed within the Academy of American Poets’ poem-a-day lifeline of a publication and now delivered to life right here, for this seventh installment within the animated Universe in Verse, in a studying by Sy Montgomery (writer of the enchantment of a guide that’s The Soul of an Octopus) with life-filled artwork by Edwina White, set into movement by her collaborator James Dunlap, and set into soulfulness by Brooklyn-based cellist and composer Topu Lyo.

OCTOPUS EMPIRE
by Marilyn Nelson

What if the submarine
is praying for a method
it may poison the air,
wherein a few of them have
leaped for a number of seconds,
felt its suffocating
rejected buoyancy.
One thing floats above their
identified world main a wake
of uncountable dying.
What in the event that they organized
right into a rebel?

Now scientists have discovered
a bunch of octopuses
who appear to have a way
of neighborhood, who
stay in dwellings manufactured from
gathered pebbles and shells,
who cooperate, who
defend an obvious
border. Maybe they’ll have
a plan for the planet
in a millennium
or two. After we’re gone.


This put up was initially printed on The Marginalian. Beforehand on The Universe in Verse: Chapter 1 (the evolution of flowers and the start of ecology, with Emily Dickinson); Chapter 2 (Henrietta Leavitt, Edwin Hubble, and the age of area telescopes, with Tracy Ok. Smith); Chapter 3 (trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell and the poetry of the cosmic perspective, with David Byrne and Pattiann Rogers); Chapter 4 (darkish matter and the thriller of our mortal stardust, with Patti Smith and Rebecca Elson); Chapter 5 (a singularity-ode to our primeval bond with nature and one another, starring Toshi Reagon and Marissa Davis); Chapter 6 (Emmy Noether, symmetry, and the conservation of vitality, with Amanda Palmer and Edna St. Vincent Millay); Chapter 7 (the science of entropy and the artwork of different endings, with Janna Levin and W.H. Auden).



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