Of mice and (wo)men
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
The animal within all of us can be an interesting diversion, writes
I CAN’T quite remember what I am supposed to think about zoos. I know I’m
meant to think something, and think it most strongly. But, like a lawyer
without a brief, I’m a bit hazy on my precise line of attack.
Is it that zoos are an anachronism of animal exploitation? Or is it that
they are at the cutting-edge of developing environmental awareness among the
Is a visit to the zoo something you do privately, like pornography, or is it
something to be done publicly, like reading The Independent, hoping
everyone sees and admires your integrity. I so wish I knew because summertime
is zoo time.
Should it turn out that we cannot go, because we discover officially that
zoos are really evil, here’s a game you can play instead — "animal house". This
is based on the fact that everything physical is a pattern of something
psychological in you, that the whole world is in you in psychological form —
including the animals.
So, for instance, there is the waspish, stinging me; the foxy, scavenging
me; or the smooth and cowardly ever-changing chameleon me. Then there is the
mole in me, blind and determined; the hard-shelled beetle, all shiny and
separate; the buzzing, brainless fly; the secretive rat; the savage tiger; the
closed-down sloth, all denial and stupor. And look: the bouncy rabbit; the
playful puppy; the honourable, yet sad, dolphin; and the fawning cat, rubbing
legs to get what it wants.
I am an animal house of thoughts, attitudes and actions. At one moment, the
unstoppable rhino; the next, a nervous and noticing sparrow; the eagle soaring
high in the big sky; or the hyena ripping at the victim’s carcass with shrill
and merciless abandon.
Ambitious competitiors in the game — that is, those looking for a podium
finish on the day of judgement — should note the number of animals present with
them over the past 24 hours. But they should do so without any sense of
judgement, and they should also try their utmost not to identify with any of
the animals. They should just notice them.
The Olympic qualifying number of animals noticed should be five. Anything
less than that, and you will need to go away and work on your self-awareness
levels. But, be warned, lottery funding can’t be guaranteed.
If, however, you do get to the zoo this summer, forget the silly game,
wonder at the strange creatures, and rest assured that no animals were hurt in
the writing of this article.
The Revd Simon Parke was formerly Vicar of St George’s, Tufnell Park,