This morning on BBC Radio 4 I heard interviews with two very different men who have both been experimenting with what it’s like to be an animal. This is becoming quite a thing in a world where technology is challenging us to pay closer attention to our physical existence as humans and, more generally, as creatures in a biophilic world. David Abram explored this in 2011 in Becoming Animal in which he claimed that for too long we’ve ignored the wild intelligence of our bodies, taking our primary truths from technologies that hold the living world at a distance.
Being a Beast
Charles Foster, on Midweek, wanted to know what it was like to be a beast: a badger, an otter, a deer, a fox, a swift. What it was really like. And through knowing what it was like he wanted to get down and grapple with the beast in us all. His book Being a Beast describes how he tried it out. He lived life as a badger for six weeks, sleeping in a dirt hole and eating earthworms, he came face to face with shrimps as he lived like an otter and he spent hours curled up in a back garden in East London and rooting in bins like an urban fox.
Half an hour earlier the Today programme interviewed Thomas Thwaites, a 34-year-old researcher who tried to escape the complications of being a human by (temporarily) becoming a goat.
He built an exoskeleton that let him walk on four legs, a prosthetic stomach that let him eat grass, and a helmet that let him experience the world as a goat would. His book about the experience, GoatMan – How I Took A Holiday From Being Human, comes out in April.
Despite the misgivings of David Abram, this looks to me like another great opportunity for Oculus Rift – virtual reality animalism :)