Curiosity didn’t kill the cat

By Andrew Sansotta

It appears that what did kill the cat was a penchant for lateness and an overdeveloped conceptualization of the world. This, of course, according to a leading expert in the area of first human contact.

Dr. Jaap van Brakel from the University of Leuven in Belgium presented his theory on Tue., Nov. 5 that curiosity is not actually innate in all humans, but that the drive to seek out the unknown is cultural.

“I realize that because I’m coming from a philosophical standpoint,” said van Brakel, “some of my ideas may seem far-out.”

According to him, philosophy allows the mind to expand itself and can develop the psyche in the more intuitive areas. This could actually be the leading cause of non-curiosity.

In van Brakel’s story, the cat is played by Captain Cook and the killers are aboriginal tribesmen on the island of New Zealand. Cook’s conceptual worldview is rather large, filled with all kinds of nifty odds and ends like “The world is round” and “England is a cool place to live.”

Once, Cook was late for a meeting with pre-Kiwi New Zealand natives and was slaughtered. In our conceptual framework, tardiness is an invalid excuse for a slaughter but the natives felt Cook’s head was a reasonable price for whatever trespass had been committed. Unused parts of the mind fall into remission and become occluded by the ones that are in use.

According to Brakel, the art of musical communication–and of course commerce–play big roles in humans realizing that they deal with other humans. Below is one such musical encounter between explorers and the Natives of Nootka Sound in 1778.

van Brakel used readings to illustrate his arguments.

“And as it were to bid us a good night, the people [in their canoes] sang in concert in no disagreeable style; this mark of their attention to us, we were unwilling to pass over unnoticed and therefore gave them in return a few tunes on two French horns after their song ended [and] to these they were very attentive.”

Another passage goes described trade between two cultures.

“‘At first,’ says Ndika Wingti, ‘we used to wonder why they had come.’ We thought, ‘who are these people?’ But when we saw the things they were trading we thought, ‘we must befriend them now. They must be our people,’” said van Brakel.

The best way in this account for one human being to affirm the validity of another is through the tried and true method.

“‘One of my people hid,’ recalls Kirupano, ‘and watched them going to excrete. He came back and said ‘Those men from heaven went to excrete over there.’ Once they had left, many men went to take a look. When they saw that it smelt bad, they said, ‘Their skin might be different, but their shit smells bad like ours.’”

Yes Kirupano: our shit smells too.

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