Saturday, August 23, 2008

Live and Let Live

The following story has been inspired by a program I saw on Animal Planet during the summer vacations. The program taught me the need to establish a harmonious relationship with animals, giving each other space as we both call this planet ‘home’. The story highlight’s man’s selfishness and greed to acquire more and more, which if not stopped, will ultimately lead to his own destruction.

‘Attack! Attack on the village!’ was the frightening cry of that night as panicked villagers scattered here and there, fleeing from their beloved homes. The rampaging elephants flattened everything in their path… the straw huts crumbled to the ground as flimsy as matchsticks, and the carts split up into pieces, their wheels flying about in the dust as if bewitched. Mothers could be seen dodging stamping elephant feet carrying crying bundles in their arms. There was much confusion in the village… the mingled cries of the elephants and humans only heightened fears and increased the rift between man and beast.

The villagers rushed to seek shelter on higher ground and in small caves they knew would not admit those beasts. And only when the elephants had disappeared into the forest beyond and the sound of the thundering footsteps seemed to die down, did they dare to venture out from their safe havens. Slowly and cautiously, they gathered at the edge of the village, only to find it completely destroyed. The outer fence had failed to keep the elephants out… it seemed that their attachment to their land had deeper roots and they couldn’t simply be scared away by barbed wires or huge fences.

The villagers were depressed and angry. In frustration, they turned against their leader. ‘I lost everything! My crops, my house – everything has been ruined!’ cried a woman in distress. Others around her also began complaining of their losses and many men began collecting spears and guns. They wanted to attack the elephants and teach them a lesson. It seemed everyone would be swept away by their anger and hunger for revenge. However, where there are angry men are also men of great wisdom and influence…

A blind, old man of the village got up and began lighting a fire. He motioned the people to calm down and asked them to sit down. ‘What for? Sitting around won’t do any good! We need to attack those elephants, teach them a lesson!’ cried a man and the other strong men nodded in approval.

‘And invite another attack?’ asked the blind man calmly and the echoes of the recent attack seemed to reverberate in the gathering. The man went red and sat down. The old man continued, ‘gather around the fire and we’ll find a solution.’ Half-heartedly, in respect of the old blind man, the villagers began settling around the fire.

‘The fire has much to teach us. We have been cutting down too many trees for our cultivations… it has ruined the elephants’ habitat. They are bound to retaliate. As with fire, we should maintain a safe distance from them to avoid getting burned.’

‘But the fence – it can be stronger!’ said one man in the hope of cultivating more land.
‘We have enough land. Our greed to encroach upon more will only result in our own destruction. While we live, let them, too, survive.’ The man who had suggested for the fence to be built stronger, opened his mouth to say something but quickly closed it when he saw the looks on the villagers’ faces. The mood had changed… everyone seemed inclined to make peace with the elephants. The flying sparks of the fire in their midst reflected in their eyes but the sparks of revenge within their hearts were extinguished.

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