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Anthropomorphism: The life you save could be your own

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 4.01.39 PMIt’s certainly not a new trend. Humans have been anthropomorphizing the world around them as long as there have been humans. Early man used anthropomorphism in an attempt to explain things beyond his ability to understand and comprehend them. The term anthropomorphism was first used by the Greek philosopher Xenophanes when describing the similarity between religious believers and their gods.

I think we tend to assign human characteristics to animals we feel strong bonds with, particularly our pets. This would explain a multi-billion dollar industry devoted exclusively to dog clothing. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if your dog could talk, he would most likely tell you that while he appreciates the irony, he doesn’t really appreciate being dressed up like a hot dog.Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.33.47 AM He’s only been humoring you. And while this practice is relatively harmless save for the dignity of your canine companion, other forms are not.

Most of us remember the tragic death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau by Tilikum, the oldest and largest killer whale at the park. People were understandably horrified, but no one should have been particularly surprised.

As it turns out, the “normally docile” orca had killed twice before. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.58.45 AMMost of us are accustomed to seeing killer whales jumping out of giant swimming pools and allowing trainers to ride them like giant water horses, but they’re not called killer whales for nothing.Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 12.04.15 PM

I’m fairly certain that whale in the second picture isn’t jumping up to give that penguin a kiss. The anthropomorphisation of killer whales has a logical explanation. Sea World parks are profit driven. Kids want to see Shamu jumping out of the water and kicking giant footballs with their tails, not what they typically do in the wild like, say, dragging seals off of rocks and eating them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 2.02.13 PMOther examples of anthropomorphisation are more difficult for me. While I suppose I can understand the popularity of the teddy bear based upon President Theodore Roosevelt’s encounter with a black bear on a hunting trip, I don’t think anyone in the early 20th century would have mistakenly assumed a bear in the woods to be cuddly and/or friendly. No, that ill-fated assumption only came to pass in the late 20th century courtesy of Hanna-Barbara Studio’s Yogi Bear. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 2.07.51 PM Since then, people have been happily feeding bears in state parks resulting in the death both campers and bears. Seriously, people. Unless a bear approaches you wearing a green tie and a fedora, it’s best to keep a safe distance.

I’m sure you can think of dozens of other examples. The Coca-Cola polar bears are fun loving and family friendly. Actual polar bears are one of the few mammals who will kill for the sake of killing. Fantasia’s dancing hippos? Hilarious. Real hippos kill more people in Africa than crocodiles. Sock monkeys? Adorable. Real monkeys? Disgusting, stinky, vile animals.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.28.23 PMI will make one exception because I’m rather fond of rabbits due in large part to Watership Down by Richard Adams. I love that book, and I see rabbits all the time. They’ve never once attempted to attack me. Rabbits are wholly fantastic and wonderful. But don’t watch the movie based on the book. It’s horrible.

I am certain that real rabbits are mostly good and true and would be befriend you if they weren’t completely terrified of human beings.

I know that all the aforementioned is simply restating facts that you are probably already aware of. But of late, I have observed a disturbing trend in anthropomorphism. Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.44.25 PM

Namely, the cute-tification of owls. Owls are certainly not a new phenomenon to literature or home decor. Who can forget Owl of Winnie the Pooh fame? But he wasn’t portrayed as cute, only wise and a bit on snooty side. Home decor? Need I remind any of you of the tragedy which befell almost every 1970’s household: the macrame owl? Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 3.51.00 PM

Again, these could not be described as cute by any stretch of the imagination. But today? Owls are everywhere. In home decor and in fashion, almost always portrayed as cute.

They’re not cute, people! They’re predatory killing machines. I’m convinced that the only reason the large owl which frequents the telephone line behind my house hasn’t attempted to kill me is because I’m simply too heavy to carry off. But they’re getting more confidently aggressive every day as we are lulled into a false sense of security.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What NOT to give for Valentine’s Day

I would like to state for the record that my dh and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know my anniversary is also in February. We celebrate that. I’m not hating on February 14. Feel free to spend your hard earned money on fattening chocolate, overpriced greeting cards and jewelry, dying flowers and stuffed animals that no one over the age of six should own. Okay, maybe I am hating on it a little bit…

But seriously, as a recovering pack rat, I am vehemently anti-crap. Have you been to Walmart, Target, et. al. the day AFTER Valentine’s Day? It is a virtual wasteland of pink, red and white leftovers that no one needed in the first place. While I am tempted to do so, I will not begin a rant about how there are about a million worthy charities that will suffer because of the economy, and how they could use the money that people will spend on sentimental, sappy, useless items; the recepients of which will keep forever so as not to feel like uncaring, heartless robots. Okay, maybe I’m hating on it A LOT!

Now girlfriends, don’t be mad at me for writing this. You know I’m not a girly-girl. In fact, when it comes to February 14, I’m kind of a guy. Truth be told, I’m not really romantic in the traditional sense of the word. Flowers, candy and jewelry are great if you like that stuff, but I’m a pretty low maintenance chick when it comes to personal, material things. The kind of things that I appreciate are more intangible: offering to take and/or pick up the kids from school or some extracurricular activity, emptying the dishwasher and loading it, picking up donuts on Sunday morning before church as I rush around trying to get ready, getting the kids up and letting me sleep in occasionally on a school day, picking up dinner when it’s obvious I don’t have a clue or a plan for the evening meal. These are all things that my husband does for me on a regular basis. He makes me feel special every day. For me, Valentine’s Day displays of love and appreciation seem forced, superficial and manipulative.

If this day is special for you and your main squeeze, please don’t take offense to my distaste of it. I may be hating on the manipulation behind the holiday and how incredibly depressing and left out it can make single people feel, but I would never hate on genuine displays of love and affection (as long as they are the appropriate and non-creepy variety). And speaking of genuine displays of love and affection, here is a commercial that is the complete opposite of that. It also makes me want to projectile vomit:

Conclusion: You give her a bear = She owes you something in return (wink, wink).

NOTE: For my male readers that think it would be a great idea to forward this post to their wives in lieu of the usual Valentine’s Day gift, I need to remind you of three things:

  1. If February 14 is a special day for her, you might want to indulge her.
  2. The couch is probably a lousy place to spend a Saturday night, and
  3. I’m guessing your lovely wife does not fart then blame it on the dog — there are two sides to every coin.

Angela wrote a post about this too. Check it out.

For more helpful shopping tips for Valentine’s Day, check out my post on The Fellowship of the Traveling Smartypants