Friday, November 4, 2011

What it is

In the nine months -- count 'em! -- since I last posted here, my attention has been absorbed by other projects, including the drafting of a memoir that's now more or less at rest. I'm ready to recommit myself to the questions I've been using this blog to explore, but I now think they might best be split. I'd like to establish a clearer focus here on training, and dig only as far into the science and philosophy of cognition as seems immediately useful. I'm putting together a second blog that I'll use as an arena for broader exploration of the overlap between human and non-human minds, also for wild tangents and miscellany.

Forty posts in, I'm finally able to state the premise of this blog: animal training requires self-training. No matter the species I'm working with, if I want to communicate clearly with an animal and persuade him to ally his will with my own, I will need to become more self-aware and self-controlled, more skilled in the signals I send and more attuned to those I receive. By the same token, I can only ask as much of another animal as I'm willing to put in myself. So "as good as I wanna be" makes reference to all the ways that my desire to improve my own behavior might be constrained: laziness, fear, conflicting desires, sheer cussedness. There might be other constraints on my ability to improve my behavior, some of them absolute, others elastic. But I won't discover those constraints except by testing and maybe redrawing the limits of my desire. Just as I won't discover the outer limits of Barley's or Kili's or Pazzo's abilities except by expanding my knowledge of what drives each of them and inventing new ways to channel it productively (i.e., in mutually agreeable directions).

So I start from the assumption that we're all only and always as good as we wanna be. I want to see what's possible from there.