You meet me only on your own terms, describe me and put me into categories based on the systems created by the human mind.  You expect me to respond like you do, refusing to grant intelligence or even sentience to my interactions with others of my species, with the world I know, inhabit, understand.  You deny me even the dignity of knowing who I am.

The sea calls to you—it is where you came from, what you carry in the cells that form your body.  Before history begin, we were all one.  You believe in your own superiority, the pinnacle of a tree with many branches that was seeded in the ocean.  But the branches are subtle, complex.  Our paths are so divergent they intersect only on completely different layers of reality.

You consider the possibilities; I am all potential.  You struggle to reconcile body and mind; my brain is everywhere in my body, fully integrated into my entire being. We have no physical equivalence.  What makes you think your dreams are better, or more real?

what is a thought?  can
words capture it?  images,
colors, patterns—this

is music—transformations
into chords of utter joy

It took me awhile to figure out what animal to give a voice to for the earthweal challenge this week from Sherry, when animals speak. But I kept going back in my mind to a book I read last year by Peter Godfrey Smith, Other Minds, about the octopus but also about how life came to be. Cephalopods are truly alien forms of life.

They are their own canvas, their own clay, with malleable bodies that can change their skin both in color and pattern. Their mind is located throughout their body and arms, and they seem to both learn and play. Is it possible to ever truly understand their consciousness?

22 thoughts on “Aliens

  1. Such a wonderful take on the prompt Kerfe. I’m in awe I had no idea of the strange abilities of the octopus. The concept of the mInd being located throughout the body will have me pondering all day.

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  2. What a fascinating question and just the idea of a kind of multiple consciousness makes my head spin! I am sure they are far more in tune with their natural environment than we are. We’ve become lost in modernity, haven’t we?

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  3. This is excellent, Kerfe; it so captures their wonder. I loved that book and am reading his most recent one now, *Metazoa* (which looks at more species in addition to octopus). I just find it so refreshing — not to mention inspirational for the nonhuman creatures I write. And it helps me contend with our human events, and focus my mind on areas where we might still evolve…

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    1. Thanks Sun. I have been thinking about that book ever since I read it. I’ll put Metamora on my long list of books to look for. I wonder if children read books like this instead if dry textbooks…maybe the world would be treated differently, not to mention getting reluctant students excited about learning.

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  4. Kerfe, I agree, ‘cephalopods are truly alien forms of life’! I watched an episode of The Blue Planet in which an octopus hides from a shark. It was fascinating viewing. I love the way you portray them as ‘their own canvas, their own clay’ and merge the artistic and scientific, seeing colour and pattern in these creatures. It’s hard to think that humans came from the sea and are now so distant from sealife. I would love to know what an octopus dreams of.


  5. I’m glad you chose the octopus. I read about them recently and they are such marvelous creatures. I suppose we find it easy to consign them to the non-sentient bin because they’re not cuddly. We are so so stupid.

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  6. This is simply wonderful, Kerfe. Sorry to be slow getting here . I am packing, cleaning and moving and was offline most of yesterday. I am so glad you chose the octopus. I didnt know their intelligence is all through their bodies, but I do know they are smart. My son does deep sea diving and once he looked in at an octopus hiding in a fissure underwater. The octopus reached out and tried to take my son’s mask off – smart enough to know that would disable him………protecting itself. The octopus’s words could come from all animals, given how we humans treat them so disrespectfully. So glad you wrote and linked this piece.

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