OKIE IN EXILE — Nature and Nature

Bobby Neal Winters
Bobby Winters

We’ve got raccoons in the neighborhood. Jean and I walked past the old Methodist parsonage one day and saw a pair of yearlings in the garbage which had been dutifully set out on the curb. We saw another one the size of a full kitchen garbage bag stealing food from our cats as the cats looked on in terror and disgust. While we were on vacation, a raccoon broke out of the vent on our roof like the Kool-Aid Man. 

Foxes roam around town in the twilight. There are squirrels in every tree.

All of this wildlife around us, but we don’t kill it. (Though that raccoon in the attic is skating on thin ice!) Indeed, it is a subject for conversation and often delight. We love the animals as long as they don’t encroach too far upon us. We love seeing them; we love being around them.

Have you ever considered how odd it is that we have zoos? Cattle ranches, I can understand; hunting ranches somewhat; but zoos?  

We take wild animals from their natural environments, and put them into enclosures so that we may see them in safety. The more “realistic” the zoo is, the better we feel about it. We pay money for the privilege of going to the zoo in most cases, and we believe it is important for our children to visit them. We believe it’s very important.

We do this because we enjoy seeing the animals and our children enjoy seeing the animals. We like the feeling we get, and we like the vicarious feeling we get from our children.  

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy zoos too. Given a choice between going to a zoo for a few hours and sitting through a sporting event, I would choose the zoo every time.

I enjoy it; we enjoy it. The question is why.

My answer is that it is natural for us to like animals, to like to see animals, to like to be around animals.

This raises (not begs!) another question: Why? Why is it natural for us to like to be around animals?

One answer would be that we evolved as animals. If there are other animals around, that means there is water somewhere close. There are sources of food for the other animals, so there must be a source of food for us, and, of course, the other animals are a source of food too. If the other animals are predators, then seeing those predators trapped within a zoo’s enclosure gives us a safe adrenaline rush.

That all sounds quite reasonable, but let's try another.

We were created after all the other animals and given dominion over them. This dominion is not to be the dominion of a despot over slaves, but it is to be a dominion modeled after the Loving God who created us. We are to be caretakers rather than despots. This is built into us. This is why we have zoos; this is why we have pets. We have a built-in need to nurture not only our own children, but the animals of the world as well.

First appearances aside, these two characterizations are not really at odds with each other. They are just written in different languages, in different alphabets, by different typewriters. Both explain: one gives mechanism; one gives meaning.

Whichever explanation you choose — and you can choose both — there it is.

It is the way we were made.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube.