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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Those Utopian Dreams: Part 2

 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
Isaiah 11:6, New International Version

In Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson, global warming causes a storm to flood Washington D. C.  Wild animals escape the zoo and roam the nearby parkland.  In the sequel, Fifty Degrees Below, Frank, a researcher from UCSD currently on assignment to the National Science Foundation, has been unable to find affordable housing due to the damage caused by the flood.  As he is an avid outdoorsman, he builds a treehouse and lives among the homeless and the wild animals in nearby parkland.  He volunteers to help track zoo animals that escaped during the flood.  He tours the heated shelters during the Winter, these large “toaster ovens” erected to protect the animals against the subzero temperatures.  One night he visits a shelter filled by deer, tapirs, foxes, a bobcat, ibex, and in the dark interior, what could be a jaguar.  The animals lay quietly, “none meeting the eye of any other; all pretending they were each alone, or with only their own kind.  As on an island created in a flood, it was a case of stay there or die.  Truce.  Time out.” 

Through his experiences, Frank begins to re-envision humans and society through a philosophy he call Repaleolithization.  He wonders if man might be happier if he were to adopt attitudes and behaviors from past hunter-gatherer societies.  In communities less defined by technology, humans might live more in harmony with nature, each other, and themselves.  He doesn’t go so far as to suggest that man and wild animal will ever become friends, however.  His character Frank, with nothing else to do that evening, decides to join the animals in the shelter.  He sits quietly, not looking directly at any of the animals.  But “the animals were not happy.  They stared at him, wary, affronted…the lion had lain down with the lamb, but man was not welcome.” 

At the San Diego Safari Park, I spoke with an employee by the lion enclosure.  She talked about the lions’ lives, their temperaments, and how well they got along together.  Despite their size and strength, they looked so loveable, and like the students in Jaime’s class, I longed to run my fingers through their fur.  But knowing their potential ferocity, I told her that I didn’t think I’d crawl inside and pet them today.  She readily agreed this was a good idea. 

Tippi Hedron, who played Susan Victor, the owner of the animal sanctuary in The Bionic Woman episode "Claws," was a great lover of wild animals.  Seven years after she appeared in “Claws,” she established The Roar Foundation, which maintains the Shambala Preserve in California.  She may not pet the animals, or believe that they can ever be tamed, but she cares for and protects them, much as her character did in the show.  In this way, she exemplifies how Fiction often translates into Reality.  Thus, she helps fulfill some of our dreams, and makes our world a better place, even if a return to Eden still seems so impossible.

This series will conclude tomorrow.

Dragon Dave

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