Human beings regularly ignore the fact that we are mammals: warm-blooded, live-birthing animals who share a lot of DNA with beings as diverse as chimpanzees and elephants.
When it comes to thinking, we win, hands down. At least, most of the time. But we often forget how deeply we are designed to do certain things, like eat, sleep, defend, or mate.
The deer in this photo is dead. It killed itself by head-butting a 640 lb. bronze elk statue in a Wisconsin backyard. In the rutting season, deer will defend territory, attempting to secure mating rights and sending the less powerful males on to other acreage.
I post it because I found it an astonishing image. Mammals, driven by the powerful brain chemicals of hormones, will do a lot of strange things. Like head-butting a statue to death.
Research proves again and again that human beings underestimate the power of instinct and arousal on their own behavior. This one fact of mammalian biology may help us understand why we keep doing what we do, despite our own good intentions: eat more than we should; pressure another into sexual activity despite our more clear-headed promises; start fights when cooler heads should prevail; rest or play when we should work.
It’s not quite the Animal Kingdom in our heads, but at times, it can come close. How does remembering that you have powerful animal instincts change, concern or alert you to your own humanity? It’s worth pondering. (I’ve been wondering about people with brain or thought disorders, and whether they can truly be held accountable for some of their most anti-social behaviors…)
Wherever your conclusions about instincts and arousal patterns, thinking is the one thing you have going for you that this unfortunate, driven deer did not.
Photo Credit: Mark Brye, via La Crosse (WI) Tribune