Sunday, 29 December 2013

Becoming Gerbil: Part 3 - Becoming-furry

This is the last blog in the Becoming-Gerbil series. Please click here for the previous parts of this blog:
Part 1 – Becoming-Genome
Part 2 – Becoming-Small

Becoming-furry, while connected to becoming-small, is really about communication and therefore is ultimately about becoming-gerbil at its most fundamental level. Deleuze and Guattari discuss the becoming of the child and woman as being partly about integrating the voice with its surroundings. They also provide the example of how insects make molecular vibrations through their “chirring, rustling, buzzing, clicking, scratching, and scraping” (2007: 340). Sister M does not chirr or buzz in any way that I can hear, although the frequency she communicates on is audible to other gerbils. Most of the sounds that I can hear are pretty much all a side-effect of her burrowing practices.

On the night she moved in she squeaked a bit in a way I could hear, which I am sure was probably because she was scared to be in a new space – perfectly understandable. I can sometimes hear her when she is in her burrows chewing her bedding. It is a very quiet sound, but when I hear it I know what she is doing. The loudest sounds she makes is when she is chewing pieces of wood or the cardboard tubes I put in as ‘boredom breakers’ (this is what the pet industry call these types of pet products).

I talk to Sister M like probably most people talk to their animal-beings, in a gentle, soft, encouraging voice like one you might use for a child or baby. This is what the prevailing advice seems to be, but it also feels like an automatic thing for a human to do. She has got used to my voice, and hearing it tells her that the giant shape coming towards her house is myself, and I am no threat. I would love to talk to her in gerbil, but in the absence of any Gerbil for Dummies book, I just try and educate myself on the bodily displays she makes: sitting up on hind legs, tail wagging, leg thumping, distraction activities, etc. I’ve tried to reflect some of her displays back to her, which one website recommended as a way of communicating, like the blinking she does when she is enjoying something she is eating, but I don’t know if it means anything to her. I look nothing like a gerbil and does she see my eyes as being like gerbil's eyes? Does she even remember what a gerbil looks like when they are enjoying their food?

In a way the communicative signs I make are relatively simple and are translated into the lower levels of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological and safety needs (see below). In all actuality it is a testament to Sister M’s ability to adapt to my attempts at communicating, as I am sure she does a better job than I do in understanding her. Becoming-furry, then, is about an appreciation of the barriers between human and gerbil consciousness (psychic space) and the struggles to communicate in shared space (concrete space).

Related Links:
God Admits He Never Created Gerbils

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. 2007. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. by Brian Massumi (London and New York: Continuum).

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