A Modest Proposal: You Should Get to Be An Animal For Two Weeks Every Year
There’s a scene from the first episode of The Green Planet, David Attenborough’s latest nature series, that I’ve been compulsively watching. He’s telling the viewer how the balsa tree gets the kinkajou, a fruit-eating relative of the raccoon, to pollinate its flowers. “As night falls, the tree prepares an enticing treat,” Attenborough narrates. “Each flower is filled with huge quantities of exceptionally rich nectar, supercharged with sugar. Irresistible. The kinkajous drink so greedily that they get pollen all over their faces.” We see footage of a kinkajou slurping up the sticky liquid with her unusually long tongue. This animal, also known as the honey bear, is having the goddamn time of her life, climbing the branches with expert agility, going from flower to flower, simply delighted by the widespread availability of this delicious balsa juice.
Every time I watch this, I can’t help but feel jealous of the honey bear in the balsa tree. I enjoy food, don’t get me wrong, but I will never enjoy eating something as much as a kinkajou enjoys balsa nectar.
It’s not only the kinkajou I’m jealous of: I watch a program about manta rays, see those flat, elegant fish calmly gliding through the ocean, their weird mouths wide open, taking in millions of plankton, and I wonder if I’ll ever be as relaxed as they are. On a different show, I see a sun bear in Borneo, effortlessly climbing up a tree to take honey from a beehive, excited for a little treat, and well, it seems like a fun adventure, something I’ll never be able to partake of thanks to the annoying reality that I am a human being.
Which brings me to my proposal: everyone should get to be the animal of their choice for two weeks every year. (Maybe using one of those Avatar machines? I don’t know. I’ll let a science-genius work out the mechanics of the whole thing.)
It’s not that I hate being a human or anything. In fact, I actually like it! The human imagination is a wonderful thing, so rich and complex that it stretches far beyond the…