Secrets and cats

Cats are awesome and sneaky.

One of the most popular topics on the internet is cats (see for example PBS Ideas’ Is the Internet Cats?  Also here. And here. And here. Also Ethan Zuckerman’s Cute Cat Theory of the Internet), so it seems appropriate that my first post on Interrobang addresses this prolific, if not necessarily important, topic.

Recently, I came across a less common internet cat video: Pallas’s cat discovers remote camera.

I like this video so much because it shatters human presumptions. And also because the Pallas’s cat is so adorable.

Humans think that hidden cameras will stay hidden. And humans want the cameras to stay hidden because humans want to see how non-human animals act when humans aren’t around (which in itself might be a kind of human presumption). This goal of objective observation might sometimes be accomplished by hidden cameras. And certainly camera traps are less invasive than other kinds of human surveillance of non-human animals. However, camera traps are certainly not without controversy. And, hidden cameras do not always stay hidden.

Snow Leopard looks straight into the lens of a supposedly Hidden Camera

I recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Prodigal Summer for the second time.1 In reading this book again, I was struck anew by some of the amazingly complex and interwoven themes: the fine balance of ecosystems, the importance of predators to the overall health of an ecosystem and the human presumptions of solitude and secrets.

In the opening and closing passages of the book, Kingsolver muses on this last theme:

“Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen.”

In the Pallas’ cat video, the humans who installed that camera clearly thought that they were putting the camera in a secret location. The humans were not expecting to be the ones observed. However, in the words of Barbara Kingsolver, “All secrets are witnessed.” [end]

  1. I read it again, in part, because I had lent the book to a friend who has not really ever read fiction, or at least not for the past many years. I choose this book for my friend’s initial foray into fiction because it explores, in such deep and complex ways, human, emotional, and relational landscapes.

One Comment

  1. Yeah! I am under no illusion that I am the watcher, especially out in wilderness. We are loud in all ways, and animals see us, observe us and decide whether to engage, watch idly, or leave well before we’ve even noticed them. I am reading Prodigal Summer as well, for the first time, and similar thoughts have been going through my head as I read on…

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