There’s a poem in the Imaginarium called ‘Little Brown Cup’, and the cup in the poem has hurt feelings.
The poem’s based on the fact that when I was very little, I used to think that absolutely everything in the world was alive in some way and had feelings. Seriously, everything – every kind of creature, all of my toys, the books in the library, my chair, the trees and fields outside, the food I was about to eat, even the words people spoke. Everything alive. (Between you and me, even now I’m not 100% convinced that it isn’t!).
Whatever you personally think about that, it’s an interesting idea to play with. Here’s a couple of thought experiments* to mull over, either by yourself or with your friends.
* Unlike a scientific experiment, which sometimes involves test tubes and bunsen burners, a ‘thought experiment’ is one that you perform in your imagination.
You might then want to make something to represent some of the ideas you’ve been having. That something could be a poem or a story. Or it could just as easily be a picture. Or a song, or a piece of music. A clay model, or a sculpture made out of twigs and paperclips. Or a play starring two kids, a dog and a piece of cheese. The stage is yours…
The air is alive!
Imagine that scientists have just made an incredible discovery: the air is alive!
Everywhere you go, the air sees and hears and feels your every move. Each time you breathe in, the air collects information from deep within you and then, as you breathe out, it shares it with the world. There can be no more secrets, no more lies.
How will this discovery change how you behave? How might it change the people around you? How might that be different if the air was on your side, or against you, or neutral? How will this discovery change the world as whole? How will human beings respond? Will we feel more or less safe in the world? More or less included?
The belief that everything is alive, or that everything has a spirit, is called animism.
Lots of people throughout history and in different cultures around the world have had animist beliefs. It’s actually very common. Even today, many people in Africa, Southeast Asia, rural China, Tibet, Japan, rural Central and South America, and more, have animist beliefs.
On the other hand, some people think that animism is silly, or primitive, or naive.
Let’s spend a bit of time thinking about it. What might be the advantages and disadvantages of taking an animist view of the world? If you thought that different creatures, plants or objects had a spirit, how would that change how you saw them, and how you behaved towards them?
Think of a few examples, such as a cow, some grass, a river or a rainstorm. Then try a few others – say, a wasp, some mold, a rock or a teddy bear.
How might a belief in animism change some things for the better? And what things might it change for the worst, or make more difficult?