Cuttlefish and Identity
Kudos to Robert S. for his blogging of Science Friday and Oliver Sachs. It seems we have a personal hero in common in the latter, making it all the more shocking, (shocking!), that Robert didn't mention the stunning cuttlefish fact that Sachs so casually tossed off in the course of the interview.
Sachs' claim, for which I've found no outside verification as of yet, is this. Under typical circumstances, when the cuttlefish is just hanging out, each eye is positioned well to the side, allowing for good panoramic vision. However, when the cuttlefish is on the prowl, preparing for a high-speed struggle with its prey, its eyes actually migrate to the center, thus lending the considerable power of stereoscopic vision to its hunt. I mean, wow! Stereoscopy on demand? My inordinate esteem for cuttlefish has been validated yet again.
Which brings me, inexorably, to critical theory and the construction of identity -- something of a theme for the holidays, I'm afraid. Our gracious hostess Saheli started it a few weeks ago, mentioning a quiz which declared that she "positively live[s] for theory." Sure enough, on taking the quiz myself, I too was rated a "theory slut".
Really? I haven't thought about critical theory since college, when it surrounded me rather inescapably, like a sucking bog. (My brightest remaining college association with the subject remains my roommate's unbeatable imitation of the "Deconstructionist Blonde": "I just ADORE Derrida, don't you?" she would squeal, flipping her newly-bleached hair coquettishly). Then just recently, I had lunch with an old family friend completing her Master's thesis in Design. She had somehow missed any cauterizing exposure to deconstructionism as an undergrad, but was now well within its throes, and seemed both anguished and elated by its possibilities as we discussed, oh... self-imposed identities, socially-constructed identities, the disintegration of identities... the ability to riffle through a whole rack of identities and put one on appropriate to company and occasion.
So huzzah to the cuttlefish, which molds both its form and its very vision to fit circumstance! Can we presume it does so without angst? Or do cuttlefish slump on seabed couches, morally adrift, undecided as to which view of the world is the real one, or whether the the front-eyed or side-eyed model best represents their true cephalopodan selves? Come to think of it, I do tend to be uncomfortable writing for a public audience, (and much more so in journal writing or diary-keeping), largely because I feel I will inevitably misrepresent myself, mislead the reader, and generally face all sorts of peril. Thanks, SSR, for giving me the chance to guest-blog, and hence to overcome such unseemly inhibition through the emulation of two much-admired creatures: yourself and the noble cuttlefish.
Spring 2006: Guest Bloggers!
Rishi | Scott | Emily
Echan | Robert | ToastyKen