Life Is a Gift Essay - 652 Words - StudyMode
Denying the obvious is a bad way to go about promoting causes, even (or especially) very good ones. And the emphasis on human exceptionalism — as Smith asks, “What other species builds civilizations, records history, creates art, makes music, thinks abstractly, communicates in language, envisions and fabricates machinery, improves life through science and engineering, or explores the deeper truths found in philosophy and religion?” — in a vein that “a misconceived, panic-stricken desire to preserve human dignity by distancing man from the animals,” somewhat misses the point.
Life is a Precious Gift, an essay fiction | FictionPress
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My heart went out to her. The whole idea of this grandmother of many being alone for the first time in her life was tragic, conjuring up the vision of countless other old and lonely souls. But just as I was about to be consumed by helpless sorrow, something even more extraordinary took place....
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We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.
I am proud to know how sacred life is
As early as the ninth century, with a present from Caliph Harun al-Rashid to Charlemagne, elephants were offered as special gifts to European royalty and marched from court to court until they died of cold and loneliness. A few such stories have been fictionalized — Nobel laureate José Saramago’s (2008, translated 2010); young-adult fantasy author Judith Tarr’s (1993); and BBC World Service producer Christopher Nicholson’s bleakly enchanting first novel (2009). Set in eighteenth-century England, it begins with the purchase by a respected gentleman of two half-dead baby elephants from a merchant ship just returned from the East Indies. A stable boy, Tom, takes a shine to them, is made responsible for their care, and becomes inseparable from one of them forever. (The other is resold and eventually killed.)
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Agee imagined subsequent scenes based on real events in American elephantine history, beginning with Old Bet, the centerpiece of an exotic traveling menagerie, who was reportedly shot by a Maine farmer in 1816, believing her to be the unholy behemoth of old. A later scene concerns another circus elephant, Mary, who was lynched in Tennessee in 1916 following an altercation with a brutal keeper — an event that, although Agee never made his movie of it, has been dramatized for the stage three times: Mark Medoff’s (1989), George Brant’s (2007), and Caleb Lewis’s (2009). As a proxy for more traditional, less newsworthy lynchings, this ill-starred elephant seems to be the nonpareil. All these accounts, in their way, are trying to say something of the clash between what turn out to be two inverse evils: the bigoted, airtight provincialism of the town proper, and the gaudy, sordid disassociation of traveling circus life — that is, being someone entirely because you are from somewhere, or being from nowhere at all. Mary happened to be so unfortunate as to drop into this unneighborly maw.
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But now, living in my American middle-class lifestyle, it is too easy to forget my past, to forget who I am and where I have been, and to lose sight of where I want to be going. That blind woman on the streets of Washington, D.C., cured me of my self-induced blindness. She reminded me of my belief in humility and to always keep my eyes and heart open.