Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Chasing Big Cats

Dear Reader,

I planned to be in Washington, DC, yesterday, staying with friends, preparing to give a short presentation at a conference today, before flying home tonight. I awoke yesterday morning with a ragged throat, pounding head, and nausea. So instead, I was slumped on the aging blue couch in the warm, dark Rick-Land room in the basement of my house, laptop on my knees and TV across the room.

Over dinner last night Beverly and I watched an episode of Nature called "Chasing Big Cats" (www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/bigcats/). Jerry Goodnough, a dear friend from Eugene, Oregon, urged me to record it; he chose wisely.

This episode documents the efforts of Owen Newman and Amanda Barrett to use patience and new film-making techniques over the last fourteen years to film five species of great cats from Africa--cheetahs, leopards, servals, caracals, and lions. The show reveals the spectacular results of their innovations. These are the clearest, most fascinating, most emotionally involving films of wild cats I have ever seen.

That makes it important medicine.

We work so hard during our teens pretending to be adults, trying to be "cool," unimpressed by the world around us. We deliberately strip the wonder from ourselves for fear of being mocked as naive, and in so doing we purge ourselves of some of our love of the world, and lose some of our own loveliness. There is nothing cool about dispassion, about being tough; any sociopath can view other people or creatures as meaningless objects. To be uninterested in the world, unimpressed, jaded, cool, is to be weak, alienated, sick. It is beautiful to care, to have empathy, to feel related to other life, and it is healthy. Programs like "Chasing Big Cats" that help us re-inhabit our world are a small but important form of healing.

We need such sweet medicine.

We have many opportunities in modern life to consume, to work, and to watch and occasionally comment or vote. We have few to build our spirits--our joy, our wonder, our attachment to the world and to life. To sustainably build a better world, we must approach our work with love and hope, not fear and guilt. Dear Reader, we should give ourselves more chances to fall in love with our world all over again.

Sincerely yours,

1 comment:

Michael G. Ryan said...

Not only do I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on what happens to us during our teenage years, but I would like to borrow your tape of "Chasing Big Cats," if the opportunity to do so should ever presesnt itself. :)