Sunday, August 28, 2005

Grizzlies: The Call of the Wild

We were talking just the other day, Bush, if you remember, about "The March of the Penguins"--a movie that I greatly enjoyed, apparently along with a lot of other summer movie-goers. I couldn't help but think of it again a couple of nights ago, when Ellie and I went to seen that other summer call-of-the-wild documentary, "Grizzly Man." The latter did not come off well in the contrast.

Now, I do realize that the Werner Herzog movie was more about the man in the title than the grizzlies. Maybe it was conceived as a kind of tragedy, with Timothy Treadwell cast in the role of human sacrifice to the wild and powerful gods of the natural world. Trouble was, for me, he came off as a rather pitiful, willful, and essentially self-destructive victim. And--not unlike your good self, Bush--a "dry drunk": an admitted alcoholic who has "cured" himself without going through a proven recovery process. You found Jesus. Treadwell found bears. Same difference. And both of you ended up with massive, not to say manic messianic delusions.

I have to say that there's something boyishly appealing about you Peter Pans. With his tangled blond hair, his over-the-top enthusiasms, his inability to recognize--or accept--reality, and his rosily optimistic view of a world that was filled with imminent dangers, Tim Treadwell wanted nothing more than to dance with the bears. He sang to them. He wanted to be one of them. He chose to live with them.

But he did not belong with them. He was killed by them, and eaten. His girlfriend, Amie, who was foolhardy enough to go along with him, was killed and eaten too. (I think irresistibly, Bush, of how you too have taken your infatuated friend, America, into a dangerous and unwelcoming world. But that's another story.) The point is, for me, that the bear was within his rights: this alien creature had invaded his territory and presumed upon his natural sovereigncy. It was Treadwell who was out of bounds. His hubris (if you want to see this as a tragedy) had led him to anoint himself King of the Grizzlies, and he had the supremely misguided arrogance to believe that he was doing them a service in protecting them. No. The bear that had the natural animal temerity to kill the intruder was rewarded by himself being shot and killed. And many other bears, with their instinctive fear of humans lessened by their supposed benefactor's sentimental need to cosset them, stand now endangered by the barrier he broke. Far from protecting them, Treadwell placed the species in still greater danger from manunkind.

The footage of the bears that Treadwell shot, with all his self-congratulatory good intentions, is hopelessly compromised by his silly need to mug for the camera, to insert himself into the narrative, to become the hero of the grizzlies' story. How much more valuable, to our human species, is the "Penguin" footage, where man is content to stand back, humbly, and observe the centuries-old wisdom of the natural world!

The moral of the story, Bush, might be that it serves us better to stand back, watch, listen, and learn: don't go charging in to impose your presence where it doesn't belong. Ah, well. Anyway, have a good Sunday. And watch out for those grizzlies, okay?

1 comment:

Pixie said...

Ah, I've heard about Treadwell, it truly is a tragedy. Yeah I can see the comparison with Chimpy though, they both aren't "all there".