Rewilding

Rhea D'Souza
6 min readSep 21, 2021

My sister sent a video footage of two tigers on the roads of Panchgani. Something about the way they walked, the raw power the not afraid gait stirred something deeply.

A couple of years ago, I heard this story in an interview shared by Glennon Doyle. It was the time she took her daughter to the zoo, and to a particularly interesting “event” -The Cheetah run. The star attraction was the Cheetah named Tabitha.

As they, and many others watched in anticipation, the zoo keeper brought a Labrador on a leash out, there was a confused murmur in the audience. The lab was led to a start line. A little ahead was a jeep with a dirty pink bunny tied to its bumper. On cue the jeep started to move, and the lab ran after it, jumping excited tongue hanging out. Everyone clapped. The zoo keeper looked pleased, and so was the Lab

“Is this Tabitha”, the little girl asked, No said the zoo keeper, this was Minnie the Lab. He explained, with great pride, that Minnie was brought into the cage when she was a baby like Tabitha and she was brought to train Tabitha who was born in the cage, to be like her. A lab was brought to train a Cheetah — How Ironical I thought.

In part two of the act, The zoo keeper with appropriate showmanship brought Tabitha on a leash out… The Cheetah, walked majestic, muscles and sinew rippling, every step was powerful. There was a hushed silence one of awe and respect at the raw power. Tabitha was taken to the start line, the jeep waited, the silence fell a few notches..everyone was now curious to see what would happen. The jeep started and Tabitha, like Minnie, ran after the dirty pink bunny. The Cheetah mimicking the Lab. There was a loud cheering and everyone clapped.

The show was over -THIS was the cheetah run. The Audience dispersed.

I wondered, The Cheetah, an animal known for it’s power run, now ran like the dog with her tongue hanging out, and people found this amusing. It was like a “score” — Man one- Animal zero. Something was deeply disturbing. The way in which control is exerted. The way we treat others not just animals. This way of feeling control or importance or superior was disturbing and yet familiar.

The little girl in the zoo, felt sad. “Why did Tabitha run after the dirty pink bunny”, she asked her mom. — Why indeed.

Her Mom, was also thinking of the same thing. Because she was trained to. Because somebody she adored did it and so she did it too.

This Story triggered many emotions for me. A wild animal can be made to forget her wildness and put on a leash and made to run. For a dirty pink bunny which she never even catches and “applause” of people she did not know or care about.. Why?

This sounds familiar.

Wild as a label has been condescendingly used. And I have often had to wear a costume with stripes to cover the real ones . Pretend Wild is glamorised.

People want wild but only in the zoo — at a safe distance. Perhaps as a souvenir at best to have as a keepsake. Plus it does not cost too much. But not the real thing. The minute it gets real, the “separation is spelled out” — It sounds like threats, we are this — you are that, know your place, the scary part is when it sounds like ‘care’. You should do/not this — It’s for your own good. One of my dirty pink bunnies has been ‘Belonging’. And I have in some aspects forgotten my wildness for it and kept it on a leash.

I wonder what are the ‘Dirty pink bunnies’ in our life, that we keep running after, a job, a relationship, the fantasy of a home, or the next car, a particular body image, a dream, approval of some people, a purpose, wanting to matter, to belong, acknowledgement or acceptance from some, certain specific feelings, the list may go on.

And how we settle for a “practiced run’, play the same behavior again and again. Where ‘everything’ is predictable. Is this safe?

What is the cost, I wonder? Like Tabitha — Do we then slowly forget our true nature in the chase? Get domesticated? Become a ‘version’ of somebody else? For somebody else?

I found, eventually, very often we tell ourselves, that actually that is what I REALLY want.I find often this stress on ‘really’ interesting when people talk. It’s almost like they want to believe in it themselves. We can sell ourselves anything.

And very soon our dreams is the only place we get to experience our true wild nature. The one that is free to express, that does not have the constant critical voice inside, the one that is creative, the one that does things for its own purpose, the one that does not wait for applause from others, the one that takes risks, the one that is alive and beautiful just the way he/she is, the one who is not told by others who he/she is, must be, should be. The one that does not apologize for being, in all its seeming contradictions and flaws. The one that does not a have a ‘perfect version’

Perhaps that is why there is so much insomnia, because we cannot escape from this truth of our dreams, and want to?

I remember, last year during the lockdown, how very quickly the wild came out, animals birds were roaming freely. And more importantly the striking thing was how much these photos and videos went viral and enthusiastically and emotionally shared.

Perhaps deep down the shadow and longing of the wild is still alive and lurks. The memory of who we really are is just beneath this thin veneer of who we got ‘trained and habituated’ to being. And if we take the step in standing out, if need be, then maybe we will be free? And the wild does not have to vanish or burn or drown.

The little girl in the story, and her mother are the last to leave. A sort distance later, the girl turns, and there she sees Tabitha standing outside her cage, with the show over and the crowd disappeared, she is standing differently, she is looking at a distance, ears perked, nose in the air, body taut.

The girl whispers — Mom look, Tabitha is remembering .. who she really is.

Something, like the Spirit, cannot be trained or tamed. It will remember.

Perhaps it’s time for us to Rewild. To Trust in our deeper instinct, which is always in tune with the Invisible world. To not source our sense of meaning and membership only from the known, seen world. To know and pause for a second, before we refer to our “lineage” and hang things on it, that we come from ancient ancestry. Long before the labels of religion and colour and types began, we had roots and shoots. We jumped and crawled and flew.

It won’t be such a bad idea come to think of it. Animals don’t kill for pleasure, they don’t horde out of insecurity. They don’t pretend out of shame. They live in accordance to the Laws of Nature, that support and collaborate as a system and not have rules that divide. Perhaps we need to put our nose in the air and perk our ears and start to see in the dark. Once again.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

(From The Invitation — Oriah Mountain dreamer)

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