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7°C – misty, mountain hop

October 25, 2009

It always seems like a good idea to bring a camera along when we go on our walks.  I’m ever hopeful that the stars will align and we’ll get a picture to effectively capture the beauty of this place, juxtaposed of course, with Ozzy’s handsome self.  Inspiring vistas are plentiful and a digital camera provides an endless supply of second chances, now if Oz wouldn’t mind finding a place to pose that’s five or six feet away from the camera, we’d be set.  So often we find that both the core of our problems and the seed of our opportunities can be found within the spectrum of communication.

they might be cars

long, winding road

To keep an Ozzy leashed in this part of the world would be ludicrous.  Our travels, however, can find us walking on sections of public roads meant to be shared with vehicular traffic.  For everyone’s benefit, Oz and I agree that he’ll stay close to me when we’re on a road.  While we stroll along, he’ll stray an easy, loose couple of feet to my left. When a car approaches he immediately falls into single file formation, tucking in directly behind me.  In favor of the communication we’ve shared about the danger of approaching vehicles, Ozzy does this of his own volition.  He used to run at cars on the road.

When we’re in the woods or on a trail, he’s free to romp.  This is where the problem comes in.  Ozzy now chooses to stay close.  Thinking that he might respond to an applicable command, I’ve tried a variety of likely ones:“go!”, “run Oz run”, “romp”, “ok, now”.  I’ve even added several body language gestures, taken directly from Bowling for Dummies, in an effort to visually reinforce the message; nada. His tail wags his entire rear quarter with enthusiasm and he just gives me an indifferent non capisco.

To condition a young elephant for domestication, i.e. inter-species slavery, trainers use leg shackles to secure the animal to trees.  Over time the creature learns that it can’t move while the chains are attached.  A fully-grown, male African elephant weighs upwards of seven tons, the equivalent of three American-sized automobiles and, it has the power to snap a four-foot diameter tree.  For comparative reference, a typical thirty-five foot telephone pole has a diameter of twelve inches.

If one of these big boys decides to go to the store for more Nutella, there’s not much that’s going to stop him.  Yet, for the most part, they don’t just walk away as though they are capable or entitled to.  An elephant will only learn if it trusts and trainers use punishment and reward so to coerce a sense of trust in the young animal.

One can only wonder about what would happen if a middle-aged elephant, in a moment of clarity, glimpsed a difference between reality and his tainted illusions.  It could ignite a panorama of excruciating comprehension.  He would know that his notion of trust, the foundation of his relationship with the world and his own place in it, has been concocted.  The values that have defined his boundaries of right or wrong, love and hate, benevolence to immorality would dissolve into a smoldering blur.

The punch line arrives with the realization that the façade was created so that he could be exploited for the benefit of those he held in trust. With nothing left to grasp, it’s possible that he’d find the illusion more tolerable than the truth.



So it is with beast, populations or Ozzy. Many beliefs, which we defend as truth, may well be only valid within a very specific context, have aged beyond their expiry date or were never in our best interests; yet they keep us from getting the Nutella.  Or, from taking a romp in the forest.



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