Flummoxed Felines and Forrest Gump

My favourite line from Forrest Gump comes near the end. Gump’s beloved Jenny has died and he stands over her grave: “Mama always said that dying is a part of life, but I sure wish it wasn’t,” he says.

It’s not often quoted, but I like its honesty.

He is faced with a sad truth, but he doesn’t shield himself with faux-wisdom, he says exactly what he thinks, without pretention.

There is a moment in the fi lm Never Let Me Go that is similar. Tommy, the protagonist, gets some news of the worst kind. As he drives home, he gets out of his car and screams as loud as he can. I like that scene too.

I guess I’m partial to people who do not confront experiences on the edge of the unknown with articulate soliloquies, but rather with truthful confusion.

That’s why I found the YouTube clip (sic), miroir en forêt (2) : un jeune femelle panthère joue avec son image au Gabon. Leopards VS mirror, so touching.

If you type, “leopards mirror” into YouTube, you’ll fi nd it. The clip starts with a wild leopard walking down a remote double-track. A large mirror has been erected on the other side of the road and suddenly the cat catches its own refl ection. It stops and stares.

A few moments later a second leopard ambushes the first and takes a playful swing at its comrade. But then the new cat also looks in the mirror and completely forgets its original mission.

One stands stalk-still and watches, the other creeps slowly towards the strange image. When it reaches the mirror, it paws at it, looks behind it, climbs on top of it, and jumps off it.

The emotion displayed is that of pure wonderment. Unfiltered by irony or routine, they face a mystery beyond their comprehension with curious dignity and unfettered honesty worthy of Forrest Gump.

Inductive reasoning is the process of using past experiences to inform our reaction to present and future ones. Though David Hume proved such thinking to be technically circular, it remains an indispensible mental technique for both humans and leopards.

Thus, experiences become tools in our toolbox. The more tools we have, the better we cope with new situations. Also, the likelihood that we will ever find ourselves confounded is decreased. The wide-eyed wonder of childhood is replaced by world-weariness.

But still, we may yet find something that flummoxes our inductive capacity. Forrest Gump found this, so did Tommy from Never Let Me Go, so did the leopards on YouTube.

If this happens, take a page out of Gump’s playbook and try not to sound too clever.

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