Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soul of a Lion

Soul of a LionWhen I picked up the new book, Soul of a Lion, I was hoping that it would at least have a metaphysical slant to it. No such luck. Aside from one timid reference to the subject ("Each [animal] has a personality, and along with that, most volunteers who have worked and played with them agree that each has a soul.") the book is a biography of Marieta van der Merwe, creator and matriarch of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation, a huge wildlife sanctuary in Namibia.

But we do get hints of the metaphysical in the comments made by some of the volunteers who have worked at that sanctuary.

One volunteer said, "My soul has been laid bare. The routine and materialism that control my daily life at home feel like chains hanging on my heart.... I am rediscovering who I am and what is really important... Through spending precious moments with the animals, I am learning the art of silent communication and embracing the power of mutual trust and respect."

And another volunteer: "You can't put up a false front. We end up stripped and showing what we're really made of.... Everything comes out, whether you want it to or not. I feel like I'm naked--but everyone is naked. It's too bad that when I go home, I'll have to put up a wall again in order to survive in that world."

And one more: "...Animals don't judge you for your appearance. You just become your real self. You lose the other, fake part.... I want to stay this person. It's so much better than the person I was before."

These ideas and emotions come from connecting on a deep level with the animals at the sanctuary. I have said in an earlier post that looking into the eyes of an animal and truly seeing the person that is there can make you feel laid bare like no other experience; you know you are seen for who you are, there can be no pretenses.

Such connections would not be possible for those volunteers if the sanctuary was not a safe and loving environment. So, these testimonies about the outcome of her work tell the truest story of the person that is Marieta van der Merwe, much more than the telling of the tragedies in her life.

And here's something I found interesting: I thought the best possible illustration for the title of this site, "Intelligent Life Is All Around Us", would be the eyes of many different animals. At the top of the Harnas Wildlife Foundation web site, they have pictures of eyes of many different animals.

A trip to Namibia may be in order.

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