Early last week my daughter talked about watching the movie "Blackfish", a 2013 documentary about Orcas held in captivity. For her sixteenth birthday last year we had taken her and a friend to swim with the dolphins at Sea World. She has always had a love for animals but having just seen the Orca's, this movie left her sad. All week, I knew my blog post was going to involve animals. Why?
Let's back up. About 13 years ago, my neighbor (40 years older than me) knocked on my door and introduced herself. She had just bought the house across the street. That began a dear friendship that lasted until her death almost a year ago. She was and will always remain an inspiration to me. Her sense of humor, young spirit and passion for that which she loved has left an impression on me. She was married twice. Her first husband was a professor at UC Berkeley, Marine Biologist and contributor to National Geographic. Her second husband was the director of the San Diego Zoo for most of his life. A very large photograph of her second husband with an elephant hung in the office of her home. Not only was he the director of the zoo but was also instrumental in designing and implementing the Wild Animal Park in San Diego as well as being a friend and colleague of Walt Disney. Walt had once considered incorporating live animals in the Magic Kingdom and sought his advice.
You could say a genuine, in depth passion for the preservation of animals had seeped into the fibers of her soul. She often told me she had a "fabulous life" and was married to the two greatest men she had ever known. I tried to probe her about stories of her life and although she sometimes shared tid-bits of information, she was definitely a "live in the moment" sort of person. Her spunky spirit and impulsive attitude left me scrambling through creeks and over fences. She changed my concept of age.
We shared a common faith but seldom talked about it. Her actions spoke volumes; she evangelized in generosity to her neighbors and was an example of strength when facing trials. It was evident her roots were deeply planted in a foundation of love. 1) Because of her husband's friendship with Walt Disney, she had "lifetime passes" to the Disneyland franchise. She was constantly getting friends in for free. One phone call from her, left entire families beaming with gratitude. Her only question ? "would you like a hopper pass so you can get into both parks?" I sometimes worried people were taking advantage of her but she never once voiced that concern to me. She made friends easily and gave freely what she had so abundantly been given. 2) I saw her endure extreme loss and sadness but she never would fall so low that she couldn't get through. She was forever "pressing forward" into the next chapter. Finally, the words she spoke about her father tumbled out like morsels of chocolate chips- sweet and desirable. She only spoke words of love and when in her final months, she said she saw her father walking towards her from a place of beauty, she had no fear.
Intention, choice and luck. The older I get, the more I believe you must be intentional. You must make the choice for your time and energy. If you don't, someone else will. As I was reading about Dian Fossey, I was struck how she did not initially set out to study Gorillas- she sort of stumbled into it by luck (or fate). Likewise, I just happened to be the neighbor to my dear friend but at some point I had to have made the choice to spend time with her. I had to be "intentional". I was pretty lucky, too as I had the time and proximity living across the street.
We have choices every day and not every story, every person, every cause is going to inspire us to become involved. Life can be difficult. It can be great but it will have it's times of difficulty too. If I take the inspiration of my dear friend: 1) I must live in the moment, pressing forward 2) living in a spirit of generosity, taking time to know people life has brought my way 3) being passionate and compassionate- whether it is people, animals, the environment or a cause for one of these things 4) remain rooted in a foundation of love. Finally, a challenge….
to "love deeply".
This vinyl was iconic for me in my Senior year of high school. As we began the search for vintage vinyl, I knew I wanted "Pink Floyd" in our collection. After several failed attempts on Ebay's on-line auction, I finally had what I thought was the winning bid. Less than 8 seconds from the finish line, another bid stole the album out from under me. I had to "learn" the computer tricks as some people have computer programs that automatically monitor bids and strategically cast winning bids where human ability cannot compete.
Originally formed in 1965, the band consists of Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Waters, Mason and Wright were all architecture students in London. Barrett was a childhood friend of Waters. It was Barrett who came up with the name on a spur of the moment move from a collection of blues albums he had that included blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Pink Floyd is loosely categorized as experimental, psychedelic and progressive. It wasn't until 1973, that Pink Floyd came out with the "Dark Side of the Moon" which was more about lunacy than space and really placed Pink Floyd on the map for a worldwide audience. They went on to release 14 studio albums, 3 live albums, 13 compilation albums and 4 video albums earning the reputation of being one of the most commercially successful bands.
So what does Pink Floyd's song, "Comfortably Numb" have to do with this blog post?
I thought about that even before I started this entry. I was thinking about the idea of being "comfortably numb" to the realities of life. I thought about my original paragraph in this blog about Dian Fossey. In her article, there were at least two human interest events that caused me to write this post. When Dian was little, her parents divorced at the age of 6. That in itself was not what caught my attention but after loosing contact with her biological father, it noted "her step-father did not allow her to sit at the dinner table with he and her mother" AND being a strict disciplinarian, did not offer emotional support. "Struggling with personal insecurity, Dian turned to animals for her acceptance".
After spending over 18 years of studying Gorillas in Rwanda, sometime during the day on New Year's Eve in 1977, Fossey's favorite Gorilla, Digit was killed. He did not die an easy death but defended his Gorilla group by fending off 6 poachers and 3 dogs, taking 5 spears, fighting ferociously to his death and allowing 13 of his group to escape. All of this for an offer of $20 from a merchant to a poacher. Fossey set up a foundation called the Digit Fund (AKA Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International) that is a charity for the protection of endangered mountain Gorillas. See Wikipedia.
Why use this song?
"Comfortably numb" is a challenge to move into action and not remain numb and desensitized. It is a challenge to invest our time and money into people and causes greater than ourselves. Each one of us is selfish by design but the sacrifice of one changes the course of history.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.