THE PECKING ORDER
I suppose the final piece of the puzzle came to me one day when I was looking out at my back yard. It was revelation. Gestalt. Epiphany. The enlightenment trifecta, if you will.
I was watching the bird feeders, you see. We have two or three of them in various locations around the yard, and a steady stream of customers robins, cardinals, lots of sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, not to mention the squirrels that pounce on the spilled birdseed like squeegee kids on a Beemer.
There is always a lot of squabbling about who gets to eat where and when and so forth. As there is in any family.
However, I noticed that the sparrows mostly ignore the cardinals, who largely disregard the purple finches, and so forth. It seems that each species of bird recognizes only it's own kind as having importance, for the most part. The sparrows establish their own pecking order, as do the finches and all the rest of them.
When you're a squirrel, for example, you perceive the world entirely in squirrel terms: This is your tree, here's your nest, there's your stash of nuts, watch out for cats , check out that squirrelicious hotty, and so forth. Squirrels are singularly unconcerned with the needs and habits and lives of robins or cedar hedges or monarch butterflies. And so it is for every living thing I observed the only plane of existence that seems to truly matter is the one occupied by creatures of one's own ilk.( Just look at taxi drivers, teenagers, and Reform Party members. Same kind of thing.)
The thing is that this was all happening in my back yard, a piece of property to which we hold clear and unequivocal title (with the bank's co-operation, naturally). The various gathered wildlife, however, have about as much ability to grasp the notion of human ownership of real estate as I have the ability to spontaneously transform myself into a cascade of molten brie while yodelling "My Heart Will Go On" in Urdu.
And so I dithered about considering the thing. I found myself looking out the front window awhile later as a fellow passed by walking a dog. The cur felt it necessary to mark my front lawn with his particular scent (the dog that is, not the owner), as the hound obviously needed to inform the canine world at large that this was, in fact, his territory. Yet another way of defining my property, I thought, independent of what the avian species or squirrels (or our bank) might think.
So. Here we have a single little piece of the planet, jointly occupied by trees and insects and various fauna (and me, by the way), all asserting dominion in a fashion that runs true to their type. I asked myself, what is it then that defines ownership on my plane? I then posited that it's not money as such, but law. And then it came to me that law, as a defining marker for human society is really just our version of, for instance, dog urine.
Not to make too much of it, but that would mean that lawyers are well, perhaps we'll just let the matter rest there.