Random Reflection on Zoos


The Following is just a random reflection on Zoo’s. My normal drivel will be back soon.

A tiger comes to mind. The twilight here
Exalts the vast and busy Library
And seems to set the bookshelves back in gloom;
Innocent, ruthless, bloodstained, sleek
It wanders through its forest and its day
Printing a track along the muddy banks
Of sluggish streams whose names it does not know

One thing write Jorge Luis Borges and I share is a love of libraries tigers and using words a mean of obfuscation, a most post-modern of practices. Concerning tigers there is a lot to be said. I was fascinated by tigers at the Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn. This was before the days were zoo’s were billed as a space dedicated to conservation. The animals were in cages, there wasn’t so much glass, and you could, well at least I could smell the meat when it was feeding time. Looking into the tiger cage was like looking into a mirror. Even as a young child when I was deep in though I would pace around whatever room in the apartment I found myself in. I would only sit of course when I was fed meat for the mind soul or body.

Some how this tiger paced the same way. Perhaps he too didn’t believe that this place, bound by cages was home. Perhaps the whole of his being longed for a life so boundless that it was labeled wild by us, human beings trapped in an endless cycle of pleasure seeking, and pain absconding.

But zoos themselves were never about the animals. They were about a show of power. Kings inebriated by possession of a heavenly mandate displayed the grandeur of their reach and influence by having  foreign animals in their court. what could inspire a population more to subservience than a king that could out of the terrible darkness and horror of the dark continent, bring forth wild, ferocious, untameable, irascible animals and put them on display, or use to do his bidding against enemies of the state both patrician and plebeian.

A well stock menagerie could set a king apart from his family of loyal supports in the eyes of History.  Not  a single student has escaped the legacy of the Sun King Louis the XIV who had two menageries at Versailles and Vicennes respectively. While the menagerie at Vicennes was the place of dramatic inter species fights for amusement, at Versaille animals were on display for study and observation. How ironic then that a few years this dichotomy later France devolved from the rationality and order to the inter-class warfare.

The era of Kings has had its twilight. Power and how it is articulated is has changed though. While the Animals are still on display, zoo’s are places in charge of connecting people back to Nature, through their educational tours, hosting birthday parties and other forms of community outreach; all which to me subtlety implies that we don’t see ourselves as a part of nature. We are more like the enlightened, but foreign despots entrusted with its management.

Yet ironically we still use words like Mother Nature, when freak storms and natural occurrences displace and send whole communities back into the mythic, impenetrable age before electricity and the internet.  That dark era before the sense of entitlement that came along with all the benefits and abuses of industrialization which made each on of us a tyrants that needs zoos around to fill our weekends with meaning and also teach our kids a bowdlerized version of our storied relationship to Nature.

About this post

There is till cool webpage called “I write Like” . Here is how it works:

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers. Any text in English will do: your latest blog post, journal entry, comment, chapter of your unfinished book, etc. For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs.

This post today seems to suggest that I write like:

I write like
George Orwell

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