Nature is not a thing. About the intelligence of nature and a grieving giraffe mother

Nature is not a thing.
About the intelligence of nature and a grieving giraffe mother

We use nature as a thing. We do not respect it. We exploit it. We dig, dig, dig, blast. We leave behind wounds. All over the world. Every day. We fish our oceans dry. With gigantic nets and chainsaws, leaving nothing but devastation. A desert in the depths of the seas and in formerly untouched forests, seemingly invisible. The catch and by catch in the nets dies innocent deaths. Collateral damage that we don't see because we don't look. Because our questions don't go deeper than just below the surface of the oceans. Because we do not act. Because we don't want to feel that everything is connected. That if we don't give something back to the earth, the math doesn't add up. Because this business is not fair. We are thieves stealing our own balance. The interplay of the forest, the earth, the glaciers, the clouds, the oceans, the chlorophyll is diseased. Mother Nature speaks to us. She no longer whispers, she screams and rebels. Wild, as she is. Even if we think we have tamed her. We underestimate nature. We don't believe that she and her creatures can have feelings. We know nothing.

In June 2022, I met a mother giraffe in the deep bush of Zambia. I learned that nature is not a stupid "thing". I learned that there is a higher intelligence that opens up to me when I take nothing and want nothing. When I just am and look. Something happened in the hours I spent with the mother giraffe. An inkling of something very big. A realization that would change my life forever.Me, in an open jeep.Breathless silence in the face of a mother giraffe's willpower and grief for her dead baby. A silence like in a cathedral. The presence of a force. My body rigid, my gaze riveted. The drama of the scene burned into every cell of mine forever. Because with each moment I chose to stay, to look, to endure, I felt more, and could see more beyond what I was seeing.The mother giraffe was fighting a hopeless battle against time and against her own exhaustion. Against no one else. Only for something. Like in a boxing match, round after round, she stood up for the dignity and the untouched existence of her baby. For her stubborn decision not to give up. Not to let go. Not yet. She defended her dead baby against the predators who had gradually been attracted by the scent of death. The smell of carrion, the radio of the wild. It's that time again. Death. Life. Feeding. Cleaning. The baby giraffe, only a few weeks old, had already died a few days ago. It was already weak after birth and could not walk properly. Something was wrong. Then it probably died naturally.Her mother did not want to let her go. Not yet. Giraffes can grieve. Yes. All the animals and people in this scene looked into her grief with their hearts. A universal powerful, rearing, fighting grief that connected us to the giraffe mother, and - this was the surprising AHA - to ourselves. This reconnection was as if I had looked at my reflection on a smooth water surface, and at the same time and beyond, in addition, the particle connectedness of each water molecule. Without any doubt. Basta, that's it. Grief. Beyond any discussion, analysis or questioning.The scenery around the mother and her dead baby was like on a stage. The perfect chamber play, orchestrating itself. The mother stood with all fours directly over her baby. Her long giraffe legs, spread as far as they could go, were no longer legs. They were shields, walls, loopholes. They said, don't you dare! Vultures, birds of prey and hyenas waited calmly for the moment when the giraffe legs disappeared for a moment to drive away the most intrusive hyenas. The dead baby was surrounded but not harassed. And should the scavengers have been hungry, their greed was patient and respectful, like waiting in church to receive the wafer at communion.

The hyenas approached slyly in small circles, from different directions. Mother could not be everywhere at once. Again and again Mother galloped off. With all the strength she still had in her. Unbridled, wild, determined. She had to be so exhausted after so many days. Dust and feathers swirled up. The hyenas ran away, only to approach again after a short time. Meanwhile, vultures sat down on her baby and continued to feed quietly. Mother came galloping back and stopped abruptly over her baby. Her legs forming a protective shield tent stretched again, while the vultures at the last moment broke from the dead little body. Only a short distance for their mighty wings, only to the nearest tree.The untouchable area between the giraffe legs emerged and disappeared, again and again. Silence, galloping giraffe hooves, kicking up sand and feathers, silence again. Only once did the mother giraffe scream, although the biology books say giraffes can't scream like that. A grunting, screaming snort, like a dragon might, deep from her guts, more thrust out than formed in her throat. Hours passed. We waited in the jeep, and outside, the animals waited. Over the hours, we had all become part of an ordered great whole, embedded in a silent understanding that it was about nothing less than a meal, and Everything at the same time. A unifying intimate silence.It was not about them or us. A system of order, like that of the chemical elements. The whole scenery then as with a clamp held by the elephants, whose gray outlines stood like trees in the distance. Only standing. Not approaching. Not moving away. Holding and feeling the grief and the lonely line of defense of the mother giraffe, and that something remarkable was happening here that required their presence. The mother giraffe's defiant rebellion against her baby being taken went beyond the wilderness routine of the normal live-and-die cycle. And everything felt as right as it was. Order and rightness.

We, in the jeep, at first mere spectators, then participants, had come into contact with an intelligent higher order. An empathy that lives in nature. An order that knows neither victims nor perpetrators. An empathy that only reveals itself between the lines. Most of the time invisible. Only sometimes, after patient hours outside in the field, appears.Then, when we want nothing and take nothing. Only observe the living nature and not look anymore into the dead mirrors of our cell phones. Only then does a small, inconspicuous door open to the essence of our lives: the ability to feel, which is inherent in all living things. Fugitive knowledge, fleeting like the rustle of a snake slithering past. There and gone. And yet this brief moment can calm everything in us. And our synapses, tired from the fiery tirades of digital impulses, are suddenly no longer dull, but wide awake and alive. This moment gives me hope that we cannot unlearn that we are connected.And that we never give up wanting to feel that connection.As we drove back to camp, it was getting dark, I turned around one last time: the mother giraffe was still standing over her baby. Ready.

by Dr. Andrea Sibylle Claussen, Frankfurt, 4.11.2022

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