Monday, October 09, 2006

Big, Brainy, Beleaguered and Going Bonkers

My reading is sometimes random, i.e., whatever the articles are in the Times Sunday Magazine, the current issue of New Yorker, other magazines I pick up as well as the books [usually 3 or 4] I'm reading at the moment. Human and animal psychology are coming at me from various directions lately. Yesterday's article in the NYTimes Magazine was me reeling.
Think about these facts: they're far bigger than we are, they have better memories, they have better "family values", they have very deep emotions [yes! Believe it!], they may be as smart [can't be proved one way or the other]. For at least a couple thousand years they have worked for and sometimes entertained people. {Remember Hannibal?] In the last 50 years they have been under assault like never before. Many suffer from a disease finally being recognized to exist in humans: post-traumatic stress disorder. They're apparently damned mad [in both senses of the word], and they're beginning to do something about it, a little like the rampages of teenage boys the papers called "wilding."
I mean elephants, especially the African elephant. Yesterday's lead article in the NY Times Sunday Magazine ought to be mandatory reading for everyone. EVERYONE. Because we are all animals and we share this world. We can learn a great deal from them. The facts make my heart hurt. When I was at an "elephant farm" in Thailand and the ONLY fact they told me was that a hundred years ago there were half a million elephants in Thailand and now there are 5,000! What if the inhabitants of ANY country were not decimated [the word means 10%] but if 90% were killed? Well ... How long do you need to imagine that? Think of the Native Americans, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Australian aborigines and tribes in Africa my ignorance doesn't let me name.
I can only urge anyone who isn't afraid to look honestly at what has and is happening to people and the grandest animals the earth currently hosts, to go to the NYTimes website and fill out whatever various info you need to, to be able to read the article -- if you aren't able to get it in hard copy from a library or friend or your own wastebasket or recycling bin.
To be fully human we need to be aware that we are not the only sensate beings on earth. We are the destructive beasts, often out of ignorance but out of amoral evil as well. This article, on top of Temple Grandin's book about how animals think, and why proof of their intelligence and emotional life is finally being accepted, has me in more pain than if I had awakened from a comfortable night's sleep with a terrifying, pulse-pounding, cold sweat kind of nightmare.
You have enough concerns, worries, pain in your life? You don't want to know about something that doesn't touch you like elephants going insane from emotional pain? You simply don't have the energy to care about everything? You have to pick your causes and most of them are contained within your household?
Letting yourself know and care about what's happening in the world is like graduating from pablum to real food. Some food will be fantastically delicious, some will be sour or bitter or rotten and might give you food poisoning ... but there will be variety of flavor and texture and combinations ... there is even chocolate! Caring about things and wanting to know what's going on in the world around us is what our brains are made to do; and they're made to do that in order to keep us alive and maturing. It's going from a tightly furled bud to a gorgeous open blossom ... it's becoming fully human.

No comments :