Saturday, May 30, 2015

And what if the dog is right?

This idea of his—to enter into the mind of another, to peer from behind another's eyes into a world that could not be the same—this idea had been with him all his life. He recalled how it had first come down on him in all its strength when he was quite small.

“It may be that I am the only one who sees the sky black at night and the stars white,” he had said to himself, “and everybody else sees the sky white and the stars shining black. And I say the sky is black, and they say the sky is black; but when they say black they mean white.”

Or: “I may be the only one who can see the outside of a cow, and everybody else sees it inside out. And I say that it is the outside, and they say that it is the outside; but when they say outside they mean inside.”

Or: “It may be that all the boys I see look like girls to everyone else, and all the girls look like boys. And I say ‘That is a girl,’ and they say ‘That is a girl'; only when they say a girl they mean a boy.”

And then had come the terrifying thought: “What if I am a girl to everyone except me?”

This did not seem very intelligent to him even when he was small, and yet it became an obsession to him.

“What if to a dog all dogs look like men and all men look like dogs? And what if a dog looks at me and thinks that I am a dog and he is a boy?”

And this was followed once by the shattering afterthought: “And what if the dog is right?

“What if a fish looks up at a bird and a bird looks down at a fish? And the fish thinks that he is the bird and the bird is the fish, and that he is looking down on the bird that is really a fish, and the air is water and the water is air?”

“What if, when a bird eats a worm, the worm thinks he is the bird and the bird is the worm? And that his outside is his inside, and that the bird's inside is his outside? And that he has eaten the bird instead of the bird eating him?”

This was illogical. But how does one know that a worm is not illogical? He has much to make him illogical.

~R. A. Lafferty, 'Through Other Eyes' (1960)

Cover by Paul Orban

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)