Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Nature of God
Readers have weighed in on the squirrels. Apparently I am wrong that squirrels never ever find their nuts. Just another thing a nun is wrong about. I should write a book, "Things Nuns Told You Were True That Are Not True". Followed by this sequel, "Bad Advice from Nuns".
Anyhow, one reader summed up the whole story for us:
Ah, nature -- this is our area of expertise!
The nut-burying behavior is called caching.
Gray squirrels bury nuts and often forget them, which helps trees with dispersal.
Red squirrels, on the other hand, store their nuts in piles on the ground, in hollow trees, or even in rain gutters. This system makes the nuts dry out so new plants won't grow from them.
When the squirrels do bother to retrieve their buried stores, they do so by sense of smell. Proof: squirrels go straight to the burial spot; they don't have to dig around aimlessly. Some evidence suggests that squirrels actually mark their buried nuts with a tracking scent when they do the burying.
Regardless of the squirrels' motives, the fact remains that this behavior has in fact been retained for a very long time. This means that even if we humans can't make sense of it, there has to be some energetic advantage for the squirrels, otherwise they simply wouldn't bother. One of the first and foremost rules of ecology: an organism will not invest more energy in a behavior or adaptation than the energy it can obtain from the behavior or adaptation. Except humans...but that's a different story entirely.
This last part is what I was trying to say.
Except for humans, indeed. I have hidden my toothbrush, but I cannot locate the toothpaste. Maybe I should look in the petunias. By the way, those squirrels that my neighbor, Earl, fed never ever came back for those peanuts. I know that because I am still finding them and Earl passed away several years ago. Perhaps the squirrel simply did not care for peanuts in the shell and did not want to hurt Earl's feelings.
On the other hand, the squirrels cared not a fig for our feelings or the feelings of our petunias.
Another reader said:
Squirrels are God's way of reminding man that we really lucked out when He created us in His image and likeness.
Indeed. We do have inexplicable behavior in common with God. I've never been able to figure out why God created us. What's in it for Him? God also invested more energy in a behavior (creating us) than the energy that can be gained from that behavior (having to deal with us every second). He must have days where He just says to Himself, "Oh, what was I thinking!" Case in point, the Maury Povich show. I happened to see two seconds of that while trying to find which channel is airing tonight's debate. The show itself lasts quite a bit longer than two seconds and must make God want to bury a few nuts and forget where He left them. But He never does.
Meanwhile, I'm left to pray for the intercession of St. Anthony, to find the toothpaste...and a lot of other things that are no longer where they used to be.