“Consider the cows, grazing as you pass by; they do not know what is meant by yesterday or today, they move about, they eat, rest, digest, move about again, and so from morning until night and from day to day, fettered to the moment and its pleasure or displeasure, and thus neither melancholy nor bored.
This is a hard sight for man to see; for he thinks himself better than the animals because he is human, he cannot help envying them their happiness – what they have, a life neither bored nor painful, is precisely what he wants, yet he cannot have it because he refuses to be like an animal.
A human being may well ask the animal: “Why do you not speak to me of your happiness but only stand and gaze at me?” The animal would like to answer, and say, “The reason is I always forget what I was going to say” – but then he forgets that answer too, and stays silent, so that the human being is left wondering.”
The lines above are extracted from Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations Part 2: “On the Use and Abuse of History for life”. I read this and the extract below at the Analytical Animals research colloquium at the Royal College of Art last month, where it was part of Paul Davies' paper “Nietzsche Among the Cows”.
The silence of the cow strikes the human ear as the absence of speech rather than the presence of silence. The absence is glaring because it seems to hold something back: in its forgetful, contented gaze the cow holds from us the secret of its “happiness on earth”. The cow does not talk: it ruminates, watches, takes in. And what it takes in, we imagine, lingers within its peaceful mind rather than rebounding through its brain into speech that might invite us inside.