A while back I posted a video about what happened when Lawrence Anthony, known as the Elephant Whisperer, passed away. The emotionally stirring response by elephants that knew him, awakened in many the fact that we are far more connected to animals than we may realize. The video motivated me to purchase his book, The Elephant Whisperer. While some of the Amazon reviews suggested the book was a bit drawn out, I found the entire read fascinating!
In short, the story is about how Lawrence inherits a tribe of unruly elephants and learns what is necessary to teach them to behave, instead of being shot by authorities who believe they are out of control. Their erratic and dangerous behavior originates from traumatic experiences they endured by humans. Much of the book details his evolving relationship with the elephants, and how he gains their trust and respect. But it also has riveting accounts of near-death experiences with crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and poachers who will stop at nothing in the name of profit.
Reading about life at Thula Thula, the 5,000 acre nature reserve in primal Africa run by Lawrence, made me realize just how boring urban life can be. By the end of the book a part of me wanted to pack up the family and move to Zululand to commune with the wild. But another part of me realized just how tough life in the bush can be. There are many sad deaths detailed throughout the book, horrific storms, and challenges I could not even imagine having to endure. At the same time, I couldn’t help but believe that living in an uncluttered materialistic world, one would gain a much deeper appreciation for the circle of life.
In one of the final chapters of the book, Lawrence says:
They say you get out of life what you put in, but that is only true if you can understand what it is that you are getting.
We so often miss what is important life, and how challenges really are blessings in disguise. The elephants taught him much about wise leadership, selfless discipline, and tough unconditional love.
But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.