Small One, his Oma, Uroma and I went to a zoo in the Frankfurt suburbs today, his first visit to a real zoo. I can’t decide if he was more excited by the goats, birds and llamas or to run around unfettered to the stroller. Perhaps the real winner was the giant construction project – closed off to the public of course – the zoo is building a new home for the elephants. Small One goes nuts for construction cranes, chainlink fences, construction works and those construction vehicles (I don’t know the real names because construction vocabulary is not part of my brain).
We fed goats carrots, and Small One wondered – in his mind, I am sure of it – why he didn’t get the carrots, cooed at arctic foxes, deer and moose, and eventually found our way to the elephants. I’ve seen elephants in captivity plenty of times, in the Sri Lankan zoo, at a circus zoo in Geneva, and at a number of other zoos around the world, but these had to be the saddest two elephants I’ve ever laid eyes on.
The sign said they were from Zimbabwe, born in the late 70s, and you could see the old, leathered skin, folding over the trunk, cracking on the back.
Small One seemed interested enough, the older children and parents were utterly fascinated, but I have seen elephants, wild, healthy and roaming freely in South Africa, and they don’t look anything like this. Because elephants were not created to live in nine degrees Celsius temperatures (that’s a winter cold for my Farenheit friends) where we can see our breath in the air and our noses run, elephants were never supposed to live behind a metal fence, and they certainly were not meant to stand at the fence desperate for the carrots being tossed at them by entertained onlookers.
And of course…I can’t help it anymore… my mind went straight to thinking about comparison. What do I do to myself when I hold my life up to other people’s lives? I put myself behind a metal fence when I should be living in an open space of freedom. I am reaching for someone’s carrot at any cost, please toss me a carrot to satisfy my hunger, when I was made for an open table of food. And it shows on my externals, not just my internals, when I live on comparison island. My face betrays the sadness of these chains.
And so today again I wonder out loud to myself and to you – this cannot be the life we were meant for so why should we remain like this?