Why won’t you play with me? I ask.
I am Hot and Cross, says the Owner.
Like the Buns, I say. I feel this is rather witty.
No, says the Owner, not at all like the Buns, in fact, but like a Person who is Hot and Cross and Has a Virus. Buns are round and sweet and Do Not Have a Virus. I am spiky and sour and I may Possibly have Mentioned that I Have a Virus.
Oh, I say. Carefully I pick up Squeaky Cat and Edge Away. Bits of his Stuffing fall out as we cross the Kitchen Floor. I Back into my Bed and look at the Owner from behind Squeaky Cat.
The Owner sighs. What? She asks.
Squeaky Cat and I look at each other. I do not want to Speak, I say, since my Jokes are Clearly Rather less funny than those of Mickey Mouse who, you have recently told me, you always found Irritating even in Childhood.
It was the Voice, says the Owner. No Mouse would ever speak like that. The Virus is making me Cross and Upset. It has Invaded Unreasonably and this is a Good World full of Good People with Many Troubles and this Should Not Happen.
So you are not cross with the Moral Dog? I ask.
No, says the Owner, I apologise for my Bad Temper. I am Existentially cross. I am an Existential Hot Cross Bun. Ha ha.
The Owner’s laugh is about as convincing as her story about finding Dominic Raab charming when he stood on her toe. What is the point of being Cross? I ask the Owner. We cannot do much about anything at the moment, other than Not Ordering Excessive Quantities of Toilet Roll or Cheese.
That is the Problem, says the Owner, we cannot save the day and we are Programmed to want to, so we feel Emotions. Our Inner Superman is Foiled. Philosophers feel that Emotions are Essential to Human, and indeed Moral Dog, Existence. In fact the Philosophical Theory of Emotion is Very Interesting.
Is it? I say. Is it? Then I look at the Owner’s Hot Cross face. She has bright pink cheeks and she looks very slightly like a Tomato which is About to Explode. I decide on balance what she has to say is, indeed, Very Interesting. Tell me more at once, I say. I am all Agog, and Squeaky Cat is so Agog that he is Spontaneously Losing Kapok.
Well, says the Owner. Evolutionary Theory has it that Emotions are just Adaptive Behaviours. Charles Darwin thought that they evolved to help us survive. The Moral Dog’s response to Headless Zombies is, for example, entirely Appropriate, given their Generally Antisocial Approach to Diet.
I knew it, I say. You said there were no such thing as Headless Zombies, I say.
It is a Metaphor, says the Owner. The James-Lange theory, however, proposes that Emotion is just a Response to Physical feelings, so that you interpret your Trembling as Evidence that you are frightened and your Relaxation as Evidence of Calm Content.
So if I see a Headless Zombie I am not trembling because I am frightened, but am frightened because I am trembling? I ask.
That is correct, says the Owner.
That does not seem right, I say. The Moral Dog Trembles both at the Thought of Headless Zombies and in the Presence of Cheese, but the Emotions are Very Different.
That is true, says the Owner. I prefer cognitive theory of Emotion, which suggest that our Brains examine our Physical Feelings, our Memories and Understanding and Belief, and our Current Experiences, and choose the Appropriate Emotion. Thus whilst the Moral Dog’s Physical Response to Headless Zombies may resemble that to Cheese, his Headless Zombie Memories and Thoughts and Experiences ensure that he experiences Very Different Emotions.
But it does not explain, I say, the Point of being Cross, given that You appear as Cross as a Bear Who has Sat on a Cactus, to such an extent that Squeaky Cat has Spontaneously Decompressed.
It is a Human Response to the Injustice of it, says the Owner. The Sense of Injustice is an Entirely Separate Kind of Emotion to the Rest. The Virus is a Misfortune Visited Upon the Moral World, and I feel Indignant that it is Here, and Upset for all those that are Frightened or Sick, and for all those who Feel as I Feel. I feel this because as a part of the Moral World I care that it is struggling. I even care that the Prime Minister is struggling, although I Reserve my right to be Rude about him at All Times.
Perhaps, I say, you need Squeaky Cat’s Approach. The facial-feedback theory of emotions suggests that people who are forced to Put on a Brave Face become more Cheerful. Squeaky Cat is Obliged by Circumstance to wear a Glazed yet Oddly Cheerful expression and as a Result is quite Tolerant of his need for Restuffing.
It is true, says the Owner, that I could Adopt a Squeaky Cat like Expression in order to Cultivate a Cheerful Response, although I Fear the Man may develop an Emotion of his own were I to do so. But you are Right, I can Put on a Brave Face. I shall do so Imminently. However sometimes it is Important to take a moment to be Angry and Upset. What is Happening to the World is Very Tough and it is Right to Care.
But why? I ask. You still did not tell me what is the Point. What can it ever Achieve?
It is part of what Keeps us Human, says the Owner. We are a Social Species and although we Shout and Fight and Sometimes Insult Prime Ministers, when Push Comes to Shove we Care what Happens to Each Other. To Everyone. That is How we Are. And if we all care we Pull Together. That is the Point. That is why we are Still Here after all the Millennia of Plagues and Pestilence.
That is true also of the Moral Dog, I say. And Squeaky Cat. We also Feel Angry and Upset and a Sense of Injustice, and we also want Everyone to Get Better. But I am Glad we are In the Moral World Together. You and Me and Squeaky Cat and the Man and the Prime Minister and Dominic Raab and the Lady in the Pink Trousers and all the People who are Worried and Sick.
So am I, says the Owner, and she manages to Smile in a Manner Reassuringly Unlike that of Squeaky Cat. So am I.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.