Elephants are intensely social, deeply altruistic, long-lived beings with endless memories who cry when they suffer and hold vigil over their dead. Now there are so few left that many in captivity have not a single companion of their kind.
When I took my new kitty to the vet for the first time he picked her up and, tenderly cradling her in his arms, held her for awhile; then his large, warm brown eyes turned to mine and he murmured, “And they say animals don’t have souls?” That was ten years ago. He’s still my vet.
From the essay:
“They are not us, but to look into their eyes is to know that someone is in there. Imposing our own specific thoughts and feelings on that someone is in one sense too imaginative, in presuming he could receive the world in the way we do, and in another not imaginative enough, in not opening our minds to the full possibilities of his difference.”
Please do take the time to read this long essay. With fine writing, soulful presentation, and glorious photos, the author weaves an extended historical, literary, poetic and philosophical meditation on self-centric humanity’s relationship with the Other in creation.
thenewatlantis, Winter/Spring 2013 issue
There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.
—Peter Matthiessen, The Tree Where Man Was Born
The birth of an elephant is a spectacular occasion. Grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins crowd around the new arrival and its dazed mother, trumpeting and stamping and waving their trunks to welcome the floppy baby who has so recently arrived from out of the void, bursting through the border of existence to take its place in an unbroken line stretching back to the dawn of life.
After almost two years in the womb and a few minutes to stretch its legs, the calf can begin to stumble around. But its trunk, an evolutionarily unique inheritance of up to 150,000 muscles with the dexterity to pick up a pin and the strength to uproot a tree, will be a mystery to it at first, with little apparent use except to sometimes suck upon like human babies do their thumbs. Over time, with practice and guidance, it will find the potential“ in this appendage flailing off its face to breathe, drink, caress, thwack, probe, lift, haul, wrap, spray, sense, blast, stroke, smell, nudge, collect, bathe, toot, wave, and perform countless other functions that a person would rely on a combination of eyes, nose, hands, and strong machinery to do.