Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The King

It was late afternoon in the Wankie Game Reserve of then Rhodesia.
As I slowly rounded a sharp bend, in the dirt track of a road, a group of lion cubs came into view, play fighting exuberantly on the road immediately ahead. Their mother stood by in attentive posture that stiffened ever so slightly as she gave me a warning look to stay clear.

I sat in silent witness of nature at its best. The late African sun washed over everything, warm bright and life giving . The cubs had so much life in them as they romped, tussled and somersaulted, kicking up golden dust against the verdant backdrop of grass and bush. The twitter of nearby birds was augmented by the cooing of distant doves.
It felt good to be alive … so very, very good.

It was then that I was slowly but surely overtaken by a feeling of a presence … a close presence … that I was being watched. As I turned to my right a full grown male lion came into view. He appeared to be crouched on a large outcrop no more than five meters away from my wide open car window.
I was a gonna.  I was a dead man. About that I was had no doubt whatsoever. I knew that in the flash of an instant he would get me through that window long before I could ever even start winding it up.

So I just froze and looked at him as time seemed to stand still. All my senses became imbued with what was before me … the power … the sheer magnificence … the majesty of Panthera leo, king of all beasts on this planet. A huge mane seemed to enshrine a face of serene calm arrogance in which his eyes had me transfixed in a gaze that was indescribable.
Those eyes had a paleness that gave the impression of endlessness yet a glow that burned right through me. Right there I felt completely insignificant, puny and irrelevant in the scheme of things.
I was in the presence of entity of perfect beauty and power that was looking right through me.
The world was at a standstill. Subconsciously I depressed the clutch of my vehicle, and with my left hand gingerly slipped it into gear. I was taking my only chance as he had not moved a nano inch.

Then I let out the clutch and hit the accelerator. The car leapt forward about ten yards and stalled because of my clumsiness.
Stifling a whimper of sheer terror I turned to face my fate, anticipating the onset of claws and teeth ripping me out and apart.

But there he was on the rock, as still as the Sphinx of Egypt, gazing straight ahead away, completely unconcerned. I was now emitting whimpers and nervous giggles as I battled to wind up the window. I stalled the car two more times as I had all but lost control and coordination of my limbs.

Without moving a hair, without blinking an eyelid, without twitching a muscle, the king had reduced me to the sniveling cowardly creature that so many humans are.
When I finally made off I noted that he had not moved, but remained in serene still posture, surveying the African bush, like a golden brown god.
What got me right was a good swig of Limousine brandy.

On social media I read much lamenting about colonialism. I have always been instinctively wary of this but never sure why. Recalling my encounter with that male lion, in the Wankie Park, that afternoon has settled the issue in my mind.

I realize that the king of beasts was unconcerned with me. He was gazing into the future. In that future his domain and all that he presided over was going to be destroyed.
The animal world over which he presided was going to be no more, and the dominance that animals enjoyed, with him as king, was to be no more, because of a virus.
He treated me with contempt because I was part of that virus … the virus that is man … now overpopulating the planet, ravaging it and driving all other species to extinction.

If colonialism involves a crime, it is the crime of having ensured the dominance of foolish, greedy, self-indulgent man at the expense and cruel demise of all other creatures that once roamed Africa freely and in great abundance.
Colonialism robbed the animals of their freedoms, domain and heritage, transferring this to the very people who now cry daily about it.
It is the animals that have lost everything ... and it is for them that I weep today.

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