Sand Crabs and Our Perception of Reality
When I was a child, I saw an extraordinary thing one day at the beach. My family and I were vacationing at a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, and we spent a leisurely day on a quiet, uninhabited beach. I sat by myself on a part of the beach populated by a whole colony of sand crabs. These little crabs lived in holes in the sand that each crab dug for itself, and at any sign of movement, the crabs would scurry quickly down into their holes for safety.
I observed one of the crabs moving sand with a claw with absent-minded proficiency, and I was mesmerized to see the effortless way it obtained a scoop of sand and lifted it into the air. This activity looked like so much fun to me that I made a similar ball of sand and playfully tossed it toward some crabs. The sand ball hit an unsuspecting crab, which immediately scooped up a ball of sand and held it aloft while standing up as high on its back legs as possible. The crab looked as tense and concerned as a crab can look, with moist grains of sand from the sand ball I’d just tossed still clinging to its shell.
The crab continued standing high on its back legs, surveying the area and assessing all the crabs in the vicinity to determine who might have tossed a sand ball. After several long moments of careful consideration, the crab steadied itself as it fixed its gaze on one particular crab. It suddenly flung its ball of sand at this unsuspecting crab, which it hit with incredible precision! The targeted crab immediately scooped up a ball of sand and returned fire.
In a matter of minutes, a dozen little crabs were all flinging sand balls at one another with reckless abandon. None of the crabs suspected the perpetrator of the whole sand ball fracas was not a crab at all, but a human.
My experience with these sand crabs shows me that crabs interpret what happens to them in terms they can understand, which may not be the truest sense of what is actually happening. We humans are not so different from crabs, in the sense that we are also only capable of interpreting experience based on what we know of reality. Some forces are simply outside our realm of comprehension. The sand crabs had no prior knowledge of humans, so they did not imagine I might have been the one who threw the first sand ball, though my interaction with them had the effect of moving almost every single crab on the beach into action.
We live within a conceptualization of a universe of which we have limited understanding, just like the crabs on the beach with no knowledge of anything besides other crabs throwing sand balls. We have much in common with those crabs, since we usually only consider other humans like ourselves to be capable of affecting our lives. When Captain Cook’s sailing ship first approached the island of Tahiti in the South Pacific it was not noticed by the inhabitants, even when Captain Cook and his crew pointed it out to them, since no Tahitians ever saw such a vessel before. Just as Captain Cook’s ship was invisible to Tahitians, I was invisible to sand crabs on the beach. This shows that we can’t contemplate what we have no comprehension of, even when it is right in front of us. The range of our knowledge of reality is limited by our pre-existing beliefs, assumptions and expectations.
Copyright © 2012 Cynthia Sue Larson
Excerpted from “Reality Shifts: When Consciousness Changes the Physical World“