Bone Memory

Not sure what’s with the top and tail of the video there, but this is a clip from the documentary Echo of The Elephants. Echo’s herd walks around and rediscovers elephant bones of someone close to Echo. Elephants have amazing memories, recognition, and the ability to weep. This already make them far more superior than yours truly. But to top it off, they recognize the bones of elephants, even which elephant those bones belonged to.

It makes me think about how we as people are taught to value what is external. Human bones are simply bones, revealed with sudden music on crime shows. We bite into drumsticks but I don’t know if we could ever hold the bones of someone we love, years later, hold, play, recognize them, and remember. I suppose to do so— to touch someone like that— would be seen as rude and disrespectful.

When we gloat about how we are the brightest species out there and list what sets us apart from animals, some element of emotional capability tries to make its way on that list. All I really get out of it is that humans are capable of arrogance. Humans can brag that their love for someone is big, sincere, uncomplicated and enduring. What are our motivations to offer our love to someone? Why are we drawn to a person? We talk ourselves into new reasons and paths to love all the time. We begin at the external and never stop moving inwards (if we’re lucky). Our admiration peaks and when it withers and there is nothing left— of that person, of our connection— we’re told to move on.

Elephants may not be able to say the same, but I think they really can’t escape feeling it— grief and respect out of uncomplicated love and long memories, not for just one ‘special’ person, but their whole freaking community. What is their motivation? I suppose it’s survival. How simple and how clear. If we were elephants, we’d be the biggest creatures on the land. We were born small and loved each other then, even if only to survive. But when we’re older, we’d love to the bone. This is part of being that beast.

How heartbreaking it must be when you are ‘first on the scene’ of death of a loved one. If you had to make that split decision between staying by their side and the need to inform others— which would you choose? That’s what it is about this elephant for me… she couldn’t choose just one. Either she couldn’t bear it, or it was just how she was ‘wired’. Eitherway I am a little human who would be grateful for even a fraction of her strength.

Our distinguishing feature, as humans, is the muddy grey space in between, filled with our attempts at living as a rational species, and the arrogance of calling it some privilege our souls qualify for above all other creatures. Days like today my mind finds itself wandering to elephants, writing about them randomly in this entry, wishing that they weren’t driven to extinction, that there would be enough room for them and us. I’ve love to meet one someday, I want them to know I’m trying. In turn, maybe the magic of their memory could be something I rub over the ups and downs of my twenty five years. Their emotional capacity could someday inhabit a human heart like mine.

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