As humans, we have many capabilities, some of which we mistakenly seem to think set us apart from the matrix of other beings; yet other animals, our elders, possess interesting capabilities as well. Yearning after these too, we’ve applied what Janine Benyus termed “biomimicry” in order to create airplanes, scuba gear, velcro, and many more very useful and fun tools.
Over the years, I have enjoyed asking my friends, students, and random acquaintances made at bus stops and the like,
“If you could add three attributes to yourself
from the animal, plant, or mineral kindoms,
what would they be?”
Not surprisingly, most people choose attributes of other animals, even though photosynthesis is among the coolest abilities around, seeing as how a being with that can bypass the entire messy business of eating and shitting in favor of simply extracting the body’s needs straight from loafing around in sunlight (aaahhhhh!)
Personally, if I had the chance to add three new attributes, I’d choose wings, gills, and soft, waterproof fur like a beaver’s. That way, I could go anywhere I liked, exploring and feeling at home in any realm – on land, up in the air, or underwater – and still be warm.
Here are a few more of my own and others’ choice attributes, some of which begin to sound like superpowers:
- wings (feathered like a bird, or leathery like a bat)
- night vision
- piercing sonic shrieks
- limb regeneration (the ability to grow parts back), like a lizard or starfish
- three stomachs, like ruminant animals such as cattle
- reproduction by spores, like mushrooms
- a tail, to flick or hang from
- immovability of a rock; the ability to sit and just erode
- eyesight of a raptor
- twitch muscles of a cheetah
- sticky feet
- fur (what sort? what color?)
- feet that can turn around backwards, like a squirrel
- dolphin-like swimming/breath holding/pressure resistance
- the ability to jump and balance like a cat
- the quivery alertness of prey animals
- a dog’s acute sense of smell
- the agility & balance of a mountain goat
- the ability to change genders throughout one’s lifetime, like a clownfish. (My friend Judy Pratt asks, “Wonder how our gender struggles would even out with a bit more experience of the supposed “other”???”)
- hermaphroditism, like a banana slug
My eminently practical friend Alan Winston says, “There are some attributes I’d really like to be able to summon when I want them, but which’d be inconvenient the rest of the time. Wings (and supporting musculature and lung size, etc. to make them functional for flight rather than merely decorative) would make it pretty hard to sit in cars.” I was going along with that, laughing, when I suddenly realized, if you had honking great wings, why would you *need* a car?! Emissions problems solved!
We are clearly not the first to yearn after these things, as witnessed by these ancient shapeshifting sculptures from Europe, the antlered man on the Gundestrup Cauldron and the bas-relief of Lilith with owl feet and wings, both surrounded by related allies of other species.
What attributes would YOU like to add,
should the Sudden-Evolution Wish Fairy appear?
Feel free to respond in the comment box below!
– Of course, this may go both ways. Sometimes the nonhuman relatives might wish for our attributes (as well as our cuisine):