Recently I’ve been thinking about lizards, and our assumptions about animals in general. As most know, the research into animal cognition and psychology is a very new and also very primitive phenomenon. For most of history, at least in Europe, I can’t speak for the places whose books we burned, for all we know they were just two essays away from cracking cold fusion, but anyways, at least in Europe, the understanding of animals has been very ignorant.
Please note: In order to explain my thoughts about lizards, then obviously we need to go over some of the historical and theosophical context of early Christian scripture.
But this isn’t meant to be a preachy article, it’s purely exposition to put our modern understanding of lizards into context. Not a lot of people have the courage to analyze the lizard implications of the bible, but I am no such person.
Because it wasn’t always like that however. Because once upon a time animals were beings. Just like human beings. We were all being things. This mentality meant a certain kinship to nature. We see this in early Christianity (see? I told you), which had a very egalitarian view of animals. The bible said that humans were the stewards of God’s kingdom.
Humans did not have these powerful abilities that other animals lacked because they were superior, but because they were supposed to be responsible for the caring, nurturing and protection of nature. The early Europeans saw nature as a garden, and humanity as the groundskeepers. A very wonderful idea. With great power comes great responsibility, just as it should be.
And that is actually a kind of fascinating thing about Christianity. When the bible says God created us in his image, then it’s easy to take it literally, that it was an aesthetic remark. But it goes a lot deeper than that. Christianity is a religion where humans have peerage to their God.
For instance, look at the idea of free will. This is a big part of especially genesis. Genesis is the creation story about humanity coming of age. First, Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, and at that point they weren’t really people. They were more like pets in a terrarium. They had everything given to them. They were fed, protected and nurtured by their master.
But then they ate the forbidden fruit. Which is open to interpretation. I do not think the forbidden fruit was forbidden by any kind of rules or laws. I think it represents the loss of innocence and the burdens of adulthood. It’s not a fruit that is forbidden to humans, but rather one which is forbidden to children.
I think the forbidden fruit represents things such as sex, power, responsibility, violence and the burdens of being an independent mind. I think this is why the bible emphasises nakedness. How suddenly Adam and Eve began to feel self-conscious about being naked. I don’t think it has purely to do with sudden sexual awareness, although that’s part of it, but I also think it has to do with feeling vulnerability.
You can only feel vulnerable if you become aware of what you and others are truly capable of. So in this sense I think the fig leaf and the nakedness also represents violence, and distrust, and betrayal, and the understanding that human beings can choose who they are. They can choose love, or they can choose hate. They can choose kindness, or they can choose cruelty.
And I hate to say it, I know it sounds a little bit twisted, but it’s precisely because of how kindness and love are choices that they become so meaningful. I don’t think they could exist otherwise. A big point of contention against the idea of a loving God is to ask “If God is loving, then why is there so much cruelty in the world?” And I hate to say it, but the real question is “Why not?”
If you love someone, then do you put them in a straightjacket? Do you sleep with a gun under your pillow? Do you lock them up in a cage? I don’t think so. Love often comes from being exposed, and being vulnerable. If someone picks up a knife, and you’re worried they’re going to use it as anything other than a productive utility, then you’re probably not in a loving relationship.
And that’s the craziest part of the Abrahamic faiths. It’s the only religion that I know of where the faith is two sided. Just like how mortals have faith in God, so does God have faith in mortals.
Maybe there’s other religions out there who does it as well, what do I know? But I’ve never seen such a strong example of it in Vedic or Buddhist texts for instance. Although admittedly I have seen very similar themes of innocence and anthropic deities.
So now that you understand the underpinnings of the transcendental ecclesiology of the holy spirit among the early Christians, I believe we’re ready to talk about lizards…
Almost. Since, as any worthwhile lizard expert will tell you, in order to truly understand the depth and scope of the lizard topic, you must explore the ramifications of the Constantinian era of the Roman Empire.
Because as you all know, when Emperor Constantine the Great introduced a new era which would give us the Roman Church, and eventually Catholicism, then the mentality of lizards changed.
Rome at this point was a warlike and industrious empire. Long gone was the great republic that had begun to explore the early developments of democracy, only to collapse under a brutal military coup.
The Rome that Constantine ruled over was a Rome of power, wealth, slavery and dictatorship.
Although the word dictator has different meanings during different periods in Roman politics. In Latin, Dictator was a more self-aware term, which described the highest authorial figure of the executive power within the state mechanism. By Roman standards, even an elected head of state would be seen as a dictator, because it was a person that was appointed with the highest power of the law. IE: The one who dictates policy.
Rather, I am using it here in the contemporary context derived from the self-aggrandising slave owners of enlightenment era liberalism, which roughly outlines itself as “Mean bad man :(“
As Christianity entered Rome, so did Rome enter Christianity. The faith that had once denounced monarchism, war, slavery, excess and aristocracy, was turned upside down, as the Roman Empire and later the Holy Roman Empire disarmed this movement of very radical democracy through the use of forced illiteracy, censorship, inquisitors and a brutal class system of state regulated clergy.
This is what produced the momentum of change which brought Europe out of the classical era, and into the middle ages.
And that’s when Europe made a big mistake. Namely, they discovered science.
Now don’t get me wrong, science is nice and all, but there are some problems with the way that science fails to see its own limitations. For one thing, science is almost entirely viewed through the perspective of scientists, and scientists have a slight fixation with making observations.
On paper, this makes sense and all, but in practice, it results in a categorical understanding of the world around you based on distinctive patterns. Suddenly, essentialism is gone, and thus, beings become creatures.
Lizards fell on hard times. Having once enjoyed the Platonic status of animal, a thing which possesses an anima. (And in case you’re not a weird antiquarian, then anima is Latin for soul. Not to be confused with Latin soul. This doesn’t involve nearly as many pianos.)
But under the metaphysics of Platonic essence, life was seen as a kind of spiritual force. Even to this day we use this language, ie: Inanimate objects, animation, animals, etc. etc.
But that’s today. In the middle ages, you had man and beast. Suddenly lizards were part of an underclass that were stereotyped as unintelligent, unfeeling and basically little more than a natural resource to be exploited by God’s favorite species.
Granted, the bible claimed the opposite, but they resolved that problem by making it illegal for commoners to read the bible.
Point is, we live in new times, and we’re starting to get back to the Platonic understanding of animals. Once again, much like the Chinese philosophers who talk about Qi, we see life as a kind of force that embodies lots of diverse and fascinating beings, all of whom have their own extraordinary traits and features.
Now is this force physical? Is it metaphysical? As a philosopher, let me tell you something: Everything is metaphysical if you talk about it long enough. There is no clear distinction between the physical and the metaphysical. Even direct observation relies on the relationship between the observer and what is observed, and such a relationship is metaphysical.
To wit, science learned its lesson, and understood that metaphysics are good. That we’re not the observers of the universe, rather, we are the universe… unless you’re from an eastern culture such as myself.
At which point you were right all along since we’re a lot smarter than those NATO jerks with their aircraft carriers and their obesity crises. Always using our inventions, like numbers or space travel or living in houses instead of caves. But do we get credit for any of it? Nope. Apparently it’s all tractors and mail order brides the moment you drive past France.
But the point is, just because I was raised by a drunken accordion player who told fortunes doesn’t mean that all stereotypes are true. I would stake my grandfather’s gold teeth on it.
And I do like my grandfather a lot, although sometimes I find it difficult to talk to him. Not for any emotional reasons, he’s just partially deaf from a cannon accident.
So now that we have gone back on track, and started to understand that we have more in common with other beings than we have differences, then that makes me think of lizards.
Because I am pretty sure that lizards can think. A lot of scientists will tell me I’m wrong on this one, as if they’ve got any kind of worthwhile track record on the consciousness of animals… but I do genuinely think that lizards are probably very wise beings, because it’s a trait that natural selection would prefer in them.
You see, when I think about lizards, I think about how they just love to find a nice and warm rock, and just luxuriate in the sun for hours upon hours upon hours. And to me, they look happy. Why wouldn’t they be happy? They’re just relaxing there, basking in the rays, taking it all in and being at one with themselves. I see no logical reason as to why they would not have a concept of happiness. So far the only argument against this notion is that they lack any kind of idiosyncratic expressions of happiness.
But why would they need any? They’re basking in the sun on a hot rock. Why would they need to communicate their happiness to other lizards when they are partaking in an activity that is universally recognised among lizards as one of happiness.
The reason why humans need to communicate things is because we’re too mentally busy. We’re always feeling fifteen different things all at once. One part of our heads is trying to remember to buy hand soap, another part of our heads is thinking about just what the hell Inception was, the third part of our heads is looking at a bird that’s eating a discarded birthday cake, and the fourth part of our heads is looping the chorus to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.
As a result, we live in a state of constant discontent, which drives us to radically alter our environments, and that’s why we keep inventing new ideas and new technology. Humanity is a species that has managed to weaponise discomfort. We haven’t figured out just how it’s possible to find contentment whilst basking in the sun on top of a warm rock.
And that’s why I believe lizards can think. They think conceptually, they lack the necessary anatomy to communicate a shared verbal language, but they think conceptually. Because natural selection would favour lizards that can entertain themselves with their own minds as they lie still in the sun for several hours each day.
It makes perfect sense, and I defy any scientist to tell me otherwise. Go ahead scientists, be wrong again. I dare you.
Also slightly unrelated, but I was looking through new films to watch and I found one called Beast (2022). And the synopsis reads as follows: “A father and his two teenage daughters find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the Savanna has but one apex predator.”
And like, what the hell is a rogue lion? A lion that breaks lion protocol? A lion that’s in dereliction of its lion duties? Since when do the lions recognise our jurisdiction? This is what I’m talking about. It’s ridiculous.