(Dedicated to my friends, wolf lovers and admirers hfc and tm, who are in anguish over this news.)
“The wolf exerts a powerful influence on the human imagination. It takes your stare and turns it back on you.”
~ Barry Lopez
From the New York Times:
Yellowstone National Park’s best-known wolf, beloved by many tourists and valued by scientists who tracked its movements, was shot and killed on Thursday outside the park’s boundaries, Wyoming wildlife officials reported.
The wolf that researchers called 832F, left, was shot on Thursday. The alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack, she wore a tracking collar. The wolf with her, known as 754, was killed last month.
The wolf, known as 832F to researchers, was the alpha female of the park’s highly visible Lamar Canyon pack and had become so well known that some wildlife watchers referred to her as a “rock star.” The animal had been a tourist favorite for most of the past six years.
The wolf was fitted with a $4,000 collar with GPS tracking technology, which is being returned, said Daniel Stahler, a project director for Yellowstone’s wolf program. Based on data from the wolf’s collar, researchers knew that her pack rarely ventured outside the park, and then only for brief periods, Dr. Stahler said.
This year’s hunting season in the northern Rockies has been especially controversial because of the high numbers of popular wolves and wolves fitted with research collars that have been killed just outside Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
“It does not demean men to want to be what they imagine the wolf to be, but it does demean them to kill the animal for it.”
~ Barry Lopez
I’d wanted to embed Bill Moyers’ final interview in 2010; he chose Barry Lopez (vimeo here) as what he’d thought would be his final guest. Lopez, an author, moral philosopher and righteous human being wrote, among other great books, Of Wolves and Men in 1978. To say it’s a book that can change the way you understand life may be trite, but it’s also true.
This is the link to the vimeo version of the interview; if I knew how to embed it, I would. The transcript is here.
Once my friends emailed me the news, I thought a lot about wolves and humans and the attempts to re-introduce them into the Northern Rockies. My mind was full of the images wrought by Barry’s having said concerning the idea that so many of us have effectively separated ourselves from nature by seeing it as ‘the other’. Here he was speaking about the oldest metaphor for those living in North America being…nature. Here is some of it from the interview:
So, it’s the oldest metaphor, because our stories began where we used animals and wind and light as a context in which to develop something that was very complicated. And that’s how we communicated with each other.
We have from, you know, the beginning of the Holocene, you know, the raising, the creation of cities in the Tigris/Euphrates, we have created a world in which we marginalize that which we don’t think serves us as well as it could. We’ve turned nature into a thing. You know, Martin Buber’s wonderful I/it relationship and I/thou relationship. This is an “it.” The book is an “it.” It is soulless. It is utilitarian. I can throw it on the ground if I want. But if it’s an I/thou relationship, you never make those kinds of presumptions. So a lot of what traditional people when you watch- when you’re in their environment, everything is I/thou. The relationship to the wind; the wind is alive. It has a soul. It’s part of the moral universe.
And we’ve created something in which we have excluded from our moral universe everything but us. And in fact, a lot of people have been excluded from this central White Western European dominant culture. Everything else is an I/it relationship. With African Americans or, you know, in Aboriginal people, whatever it’s going to be. But when you– with traditional people, the relationships with everything are about the holiness of the other, the mystery of the other. That’s that I/thou relationship.
And what I would like to I guess encourage people to understand is that for the sake of our own convenience, we created an “other,” and that other was nature. And we said, if it doesn’t serve us, kill it, move it, destroy it, crush it. Make it serve us. And if it doesn’t, it’s no good.
The next part about the impossibility of directing the play in life, but needing to be part of the play, and interact with other humans in love and community is simply beautiful; I hope you read it. Or watch the video.
Goodbye, Wolves 832F and 754.
“How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one’s culture but within oneself? If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox. One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse. There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions. You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light.”
~ Barry Lopez
Bill Moyers Journal: Barry Lopez video, from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.