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I speak of the mammal, the animal so weird and disturbing we actually went and named it after one of the 7 deadly sins.

In modern culture there has been a movement to try and label them as “cute,” rather then disturbing and weird, and unfortunately this has promoted the idea of trying to make them into pets. Recently one, “shot out like a rattlesnake” and bit a teenager, so I am hopeful that will help dampen some of the “cute” enthusiasm. I don’t believe we should be trying to make wild animals into pets. Never mind the teenagers, it’s unkind to the animal.

Sloths do not “waste the sluggish body” they are actually a great engineering feat, a biological wonder. I am fond of them simply because they defy so much of what we think we know about evolution and they challenge many of our preconceived notions.

To survive in the rain forest one must be an apex predator and a skilled hunter. One must consume a great deal of calories and be very fast because it’s all about survival of the fittest, and dominating the jungle so you can live to see another day….

Sloths are like, “No.”

They move very slowly, don’t hunt, often eat only 3 leaves a day, and are completely disinterested in our evolutionary rules for survival hierarchies. They are neither predators nor prey, although they do sometimes get eaten by an eagle or a big cat.

I am kind of fascinated by our human perceptions of sloths, by what I shall call “repressed negativity.” Well, it wasn’t so repressed back in literary days. The naturalists of old flat out referred to them as “lazy, vile, and stupid,” and declared, “no more useless creature has ever existed.” Apparently sloths tend to offend our delicate sensibilities and perhaps even frighten us a wee bit.

Rather then grooming themselves, they just let the algae (and moths) live in their fur which can taint them green and give them even more camouflage. I once heard it said that this was something evolution had taught them, which just begs the question, how in the world did evolution manage that? Sloths are not very teachable. Also, the algae is somewhat sloth specific, as are the moths who like to live there, too. It’s a trifecta, a biodiverse feat of evolutionary synchronicity. The algae and the moths had to come into agreement with this diabolical plot, too.

I certainly find sloths disturbing, weird, and alien, not unlike octopuses. They mostly stay in the trees and really cannot move very well on the ground. Their limbs cannot support and lift their own body weight which makes them move very awkwardly on the ground, however, in the trees their limbs are freakishly strong and they can pose in weird positions for hours. I say “freakishly strong,” because they haven’t got the muscle mass to pull it off and yet they do it anyway, rather effortlessly.

One should avoid all scary movies, especially Japanese remakes, but let me just mention that the movie, “The Grudge” really did not have much of a script or story line or even good acting, but it did create an absolutely brilliant artistic creep factor by simply making a human move around like a disjointed sloth at various speeds.

So yes, I have been enjoying studying sloths lately, mostly out of curiosity as to why humans are so concerned about “sloth,” about why we equate “moving slow” with being “lazy and stupid,” and what lurks behind our fear of sluggards. It seems to me that much of what is wrong with people these days is how we are always dashing about in a hurry to get somewhere and “do something,” rather then simply taking a few moments now and then to just, “be still and know that I am God.”