Monday, February 3, 2014

Day 182 of 365: What Are We Missing?

"Cats can't detect beat or melody. Music is completely lost on them. This means they don't understand why you just picked them up and bounced them around the room."

I made that comment maybe a month or two ago. Just a little something to make light of the fact that I was probably giving my cat seasickness. In fact, aside from humans and parrots, music is lost on almost all creatures. A series of changing notes means nothing to the vast majority of creatures. They are just that: a series of changing notes, without rhyme or reason.

Music is so ingrained in our everyday life. Some anthropologists believe we actually sang before we talked. We remember things better when they are sung out in jingle format (yeah, pretend that you don't know the numbers for Luna Carpeting and the Cars for Kids Charity). One of my favorite radio stations plays orchestral covers of mainstream hits and I can predict the melody long before I can predict the lyrics (or even remember the song's name). This random series of changing notes gives us catharsis, a way of speaking and communicating complex feelings, a way to make the mundane extraordinary.

And it means jack shit to the most creatures.

It's purely chemical. Their brains take in the sound waves and deciphers them one way, while our brain deciphers them another. The sound waves don't magically go away for the dogs and cats. The perception of them simply changes. To them, music does not exist because they have never perceived it, and perception of reality trumps actual reality.

I had a philosophy class in college that tried a similar experiment when it came to dimensions. I argued that, outside of mathematical equations, we can never experience a one- or two-dimension object. Purely a representation. We live in a three-dimensional world, and that dot and line will have length, width, and depth, no matter how thin you draw the line, or how tiny the dot is on your computer. If we are so trapped in perceiving the world with three dimensions, how could we ever try perceiving any additional dimensions (again, outside of math)?

We trust in our five senses because we only have five. We trust in the colors we see because that's the only way our brain processes what's going around around us. We trust in the emotions we experience because those are the only ones we are given. Think of the cognitive dissonance we get when we see something that falls outside our usual schemas, or we hear something we cannot immediately categorize. Think of the anxiety we get when people discuss the universe at large and we realize just how little we actually know.

You can blame the hippy-dippiness on my recent string of yoga training classes, but, really, this is beyond New-Age philosophy. Just how much are we missing because we assume we know all there is about reality? We touch and taste and feel and assume those textures are what make up the fabric of existence. When we might just be nothing more than the average housecat, missing out on a life-changing symphony because we cannot detect beat and melody, and therefore assumes something like music just doesn't exist.

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