The Andrew Luck Book Club. Sy enjoyed talking with Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, about The Soul of an Octopus. You can hear Andrew and Sy discuss play-action passes, scrambling on third-and-long, and protecting the pocket. Actually, no. It’s all octos and Mr. QB asks good questions.
Brain Pickings. The nimble Maria Popova has gained a large following for her discussions of fascinating thinkers, artists, and writers. Recently writing about the “central mystery of consciousness,” Popova referred to The Soul of an Octopus, which she also wrote about in earlier post.
The wonders of inner lives. Coco and her mom, Jessica, are reading The Soul of an Octopus. Coco is 11 years old. She has autism and Rett Syndrome. She doesn’t speak, and until two years ago everyone thought she was nonverbal, says Jessica. But then Jessica discovered a way for Coco to communicate by pointing at big capital letters on a clear sheet. Coco goes letter-by-letter until she has completed her thought. “Now we know she is highly verbal and has been misunderstood her whole life (and is still so misunderstood by many),” says Jessica.
They are having a good time reading Sy’s book. “She is really identifying with these octopuses!” says Jessica. Here are Coco’s thoughts about three different parts of the book:
“Octopuses are awesome. Octopuses are clearly more intelligent than they look. Autistic people are also more intelligent than they look. Besides autistics there are probably many other creatures who are misjudged because they look or move differently than what humans consider to be normal. Seeing the truth about someone when it contradicts what you always thought might be scary for some. Leaving behind long held assumptions can be difficult because doing so can feel antithetical to our core beliefs.
“Dying octopuses can become violent. People can easily misunderstand octopus behavior . They are a lot like humans yet so alien to us too. Can we presume to understand these creatures? Getting to know them is a first step. Having been misunderstood my whole life has made me particularly sensitive to this.
“Do animals feel what we feel? Do they attain wisdom through life experiences like humans? Scientists have looked for evidence except they are assuming that behaviors are the only indicators of the internal workings of the creatures they are studying. I am a creature whose behaviors are closely monitored. Bcbas [Board Certified Behavior Analysts] track and analyze my behaviors. So do they know my mind? Dare I say certainly not. I behave in ways that can be confusing. I scream sometimes when nothing is wrong. I pull hair when I want kids to like me. Once my cat came up for a pet and I picked her up by the tail. Never would I want to hurt her. I love her. My hare brained compulsions do not add up to the sum total of my intellect. Speaking of hares, who is to say that they do not have brilliant brains? It’s time we humans stopped making assumptions that are unfair and unfounded. Calling a bunch of ignorant observations data does not make it scientific fact. There are wonders and inner lives in all animals and people.”
Thank you Coco and Jessica. Sy loved hearing from you.
The most wonderful things just show up in Sy’s mail. These games were created by a reader in Poland, graphic designer Magdalena Stadnik. She had read the Polish translation of Journey of the Pink Dolphins. “I love it,” she wrote. “The book is un-put-downable magic.” The game Creatures include beautiful and endangered animals like the hirola, the gharial and the indri. Another game, Spectres, highlights animals who recently went extinct. Each species is represented in beautiful detail on black and white cardboard cards. To play, you put all the cards showing the animals face down next to one another. Turn over any two; if they’re identical, collect them and reveal another two. If different, put them back where you found them, and let another player take a turn. Your aim, like Noah’s, is to collect matching pairs. The player with the most matching pairs wins.
Dear Match Book: What Books Best Capture Science and Nature? Match Book is a New York Times dating service for readers looking for a good book. (You know the plot: Book club seeks a good book, meets a good book thanks to the Times, and the rest is a page-turning happily ever after.) One science book that Match Book suggests? The Soul of an Octopus.