Q:Have you experienced Joe Hutto's "My Life as a Turkey"? Currently watching a program on PBS Nature. Some fascinating insights into imprinting, presence, and being... Enjoy!
I had seen previews on PBS for this Nature special several times but never found the time to watch it. Your question was the catalyst. Thank you. What a gorgeous film and what a novel way of seeing the world!
I’m embedding it within this reply so that others may watch it in the days leading up to Thanksgiving in the States. In many ways, characters like Joe Hutto and Alan Rabinowitz, whom we interviewed for “A Voice for the Animals,” are windows for our species. They’re eccentric characters that teach us about ourselves as a species and as a sentient beings through their interactions with wildlife. They also prove that we have a lot to learn when it comes to our sweeping generalizations about other species.
Here are a few of Joe Hutto’s words of wisdom that strike at the core of who this man is and how we can learn from his observations:
“And I realized that my involvement in this experiment was going to be a very personal, very emotional ride for me — and not just a science experiment.”
“Each day as I leave the confines of my language and culture, these creatures seem to become in every way my superiors. They are more alert, sensitive, and aware. They’re in many ways, in fact, more intelligent. They’re understanding of the forest is beyond my ability to comprehend.”
“Emotions are certainly not peculiar to the human experience. In their observation of death, the death of another turkey that is a member of their group, it’s a very conscious behavior as if they are trying to understand what the meaning of this is.”
And, boy, I’d regret not commenting on the ending scene with Turkey Boy. My Life as a Turkey is a brutal reminder that with all of the kindness, the tenderness, and the social interaction between man and bird, nature and creatures desire not only to survive but to dominate and establish dominion.
Thank you so much for the reminder,
Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Snug as a Wug in a Rug
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
“We’re talking about pure science that’s as important as outer space or the deep sea. We’re learning how human beings think.”
—Jean Berko Gleason
In the world of linguistics, Jean Berko Gleason is a huge rock star. She’s best known as the mother of the groundbreaking “wug test,” which demonstrated how children as young as four can internalize complex language rules (like forming plurals) — and apply these rules broadly, even to nonsense words (like “wug”) they’ve never encountered before. You can see how the test works in Nova’s ”Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers” segment above.
As Berko Gleason explains in her paper “Language Acquisition and Socialization,” the wug study proved that “children are not simply learning bits and pieces of the adult linguistic system but are constructing generative systems of their own and that this results not from adult instruction but from the children’s inborn grammatical capacity.” This finding was so huge that it forever changed the field of linguistics and even inspired some aspiring linguists to get wug tattoos.
The complexity of our “inborn grammatical capacity” is a distinguishing feature of our humanness. And yet, how this hard-wired capacity evolved in our brains is a scientific riddle that hasn’t been neatly resolved. The great mysteries of the universe don’t just reside in the cosmos, they reside within us.
The Golden Tones of Hélène Grimaud’s Existence
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The French pianist Hélène Grimaud describes herself as an agitated and unpredictable child who found her salvation in music. And, now, as an adult, it’s wolf conservation and their howling as “one of the most beautiful sounds in nature.”
This interview with Alexis Bloom for Sound Tracks is delightfully produced and touches on a number of interesting other subjects in Grimaud’s life, including her synesthesia and the golden tones of Liszt’s sonata.
And, if, like me, you’d like to hear what Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, what she calls “a monumental quest,” sounds like, take four minutes and watch Grimaud perform this excerpt at Steinway Hall in New York. It’s pretty magical.
Charles Wright Reads “Together” (video)
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The PBS NewsHour’s “weekly poem” on their Art Beat blog is a favorite of mine. And Charles Wright’s recitation while sitting in his study during the depth of winter resonates deep within. And, although the reading is nice, seeing the poem laid out on the page truly brings the poem to life.
Haiti Religious Relief Efforts Continue On One Year Later
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
The one-year anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake is approaching. And, with all the coverage from that time, relatively little in-depth coverage is being dedicated to the recovery efforts. Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, is a helpful exception. She recently returned from a trip to the recovering island country and did a quick turnaround for today’s nicely done piece showing how the myriad faith-based organizations working in Haiti are finding ways to work in a challenging environment.
There is much that is good happening there, but I think it’s Reverend Jean-Marc Zamor, a local pastor who has been leading the Free Methodist Haiti Inland Mission efforts, who reminds us that what we’re reading and seeing about his country is only part of the story:
“There are a lot of people living with cholera, a lot of people in need. But Haiti is not only that. At the same time, there are a lot of people doing a lot of things, a lot of work going on. Otherwise, we would not survive.”
Sharlene Jean offering a sample of treated drinking water to a child living in a makeshift camp in Gressier, Haiti. The United Methodist Committee on Relief and partner agencies provided water treatment supplies to the camp (photo: Mike DuBose/United Methodist News Service).
Tired of Inevitable
Shubha Bala, associate producer
“It’s inevitable, there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m so tired of that word inevitable.” —Wendell Berry
In this video from the Arlington Public Library, Wendell Berry (who reads his poems in our current show “Land, Life, and the Poetry of Creatures”) brings his wisdom to thinking about the current oil spill. When an audience member asks him to expound upon his previous comments about “cheap oil” allowing people in the U.S. to “live in a certain way,” Berry responds:
“When we talk about these characteristics, that happen to be characteristics of good agriculture — diversity, versatility, recognition, and acceptance of appropriate limits or getting the scale right, and local adaptation — those ideas, it seems to me, put us in reach of work that we can do. To assume that all experiences like that oil well can only be handled by experts at great expense is a mistake, I think.”