THE WONDER OF THE WORLD
My youngest daughter is 14 months old. Her vocabulary is limited to Mama, Up and Dhere.
Her ability to mimic other’s behaviour is far more complex. Every morning and night,
perched on my hip she mimics spitting into the bathroom sink as I brush her sisters’ teeth.
She pretends to blow her nose with tissues, laughs when something is funny and puts on
shoes of any size. Our brains are designed to mimic what we witness.
Psychology describes the unconscious mimicry of others in adults too. (1) The Chameleon
effect articulates how humans mimic the gestures, language and idiosyncrasies of the
people around them in an effort to feel they belong. There is a fine balance in our striving
for individualism and our need for community and belonging.
Plants mimic animals, animals and insects mimic plants. Animals and humans mimic
behaviour too, more consciously when there is a motive. The plover, is a bird who will feign
an injured wing to distract his predator away from the nest he is guarding (2). The flowers of
the hammer orchid, Drakaea livida, use sexual deception as a pollination strategy. They not
only mimic the shape of female Thynnine wasps but also emit an odour that mimics the
mating pheromone they emit. (3)
We resort to mimicry to get what we need. Sometimes devious, but more often strategic
and bright. We even use drugs to mimic hormones and peptides in the body to reverse
certain disease patterns. Beta agonists act like adrenergic molecules to bind to receptors in
the lungs to relax bronchospasm in asthma.
Art mimics nature too. And the mimicry of the natural world may be the highest order of
art. The recurring patterns of water, ripples, reflections, camouflages, cat skins, furs,
variegated leaves. The spirals of shells, the cochlear of your ear, the clasp of a neonates
fingers; through curling and unfurling, we are all part of this expanding, contracting,
dividing, imploding biological universe.
I set out to comment on how important it is that we surround ourselves with people and
daily work that embodies what we are trying to achieve or embody. I meant to say, if you
spend time with kind people, you will be kinder. If you spend more time by the river side,
you will be calmer. And, yes, it’s true.
But, what I realized reading about the sexual cannibalism of the praying mantis and the
predatory attacks of Komodo dragons, is that nature is as full of terror as it is, of wonder.
Our capacity for good is as deep as our capacity for very terrible things. We are such a clear
continuation of this natural universe. I am here to give language to the dramatic, miraculous
And the mirrors are here to show you your best and your worst selves.
In each of us, is a small measure of a cannibalistic urge, we are ego maniacs and narcissists,
we are, all of us, a little bit mad. We are also empathic, we are full of the white light, we are
powerful beyond measure in our capacity for generosity and connection. So take heed from
the mantis and the dictators of hives and underground colonies.
Align your own mimicry to the ripples of the water and the rays of the sun.