Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lion in Winter

“And the lion walks close by his side, unwilling henceforth to part from him: he will always in future accompany him, eager to serve and protect him. He goes ahead until he scents in the wind upon his way some wild beasts feeding; then hunger and his nature prompt him to seek his prey and to secure his sustenance. It is his nature so to do.”  
         Yvain, the Knight of the Lion
         Chrétien de Troyes


Do they still teach these old-fashioned things in school? That March comes in like a lion? Our El Nino weather pattern is supposed to still have potential to bring storms to California but February has been showers with sunshine and warm weather this year. So the lion sleeps tonight as it has most of the month.

Lion imagery is generally something we like in Western culture. MGM’s lion may have been toothless but gave mighty roars before thrilling cinema goers were treated to the latest show for years. Lion lovers created an uproar at the death of one lion by a proud but reviled American dentist, pleased with his big game kill. Animal lovers mourned the death of the king of beasts as an individual as much as they mourned the loss of a symbol of the dwindling wildlife on our planet. While all my classmates seemed to be dazzled by horses in my primary school years, I was in love with cats of all sizes including Elsa the lioness. Instead of wanting to ride the wind, I wanted the ferocious thing to love me instead of eat me.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Later I went to a live production of the Lion King and marveled at the set, costuming, dance and song that celebrates life, even the difficult parts. Rather than portray all lions as good—or even all lions as man-eaters and bad—the theatre production showed that individuals may be good or bad, make good or bad choices, but in the larger scheme of things lions are necessary as part of the World.

The Strength card in Tarot shows the lion soothed by the lady, the urge to be a predator tamed by wisdom, patience, understanding and compassion. If the predator gives in to the lust for the kill, it may eat well for a day, but the excess will rot and eventually the predator will starve. If the predator has his teeth and claws removed, it may well starve as well, since lions are meant to eat meat, not grass and leaves. Strength, then, is more than the obvious momentary overpowering single effort. Long-term survival means exercising both immediate action and control at the same time. If you must destroy or consume, measure carefully. It speaks to our inner voices, the voice that says, “I want,” and the one that says, “Easy, there.”

The conservation of nature requires that same balance. As a dominant species, we must consume something to survive. We must leave a carbon footprint in order to be in the physical world. We’ve become over-achievers when it comes to consumption. We don’t always notice this; it feels like everyday life. We have to get to work and be able to work and be rewarded in some form of payment in order to afford food, shelter, safety, health and the care of our children. And we all want a little something extra on top for our souls: Music, art, cosplay, religion, leisure activities, or improvement of some kind.

And one of the phenomena of modern society—was it ever thus?—is that we’re having trouble distinguishing need from want. Chicken soup for the soul, yes, but must we have the cheesy artichoke dip and artisan bread appetizer with our prime rib for the soul with fries and the lava cake a la mode for dessert? What is necessity? What is luxury?

If the lion is appetite and urge, the tamer is the triumph of wisdom over urge, the soft voice of good sense in the ear of the beast that helps regulate the primitive power within. The lion is not shown as caged, shackled, defeated, declawed, shot and killed like a trophy as if killing the powerful thing somehow transfers the power to the killer. The lion is shown responding to gentleness, calming, beauty, kindness, good intent, understanding, compassion. These are effective over time, so the strength displayed is one of endurance.

I attended an event recently that focused not on big predators but on birds, the Flyway Festival. Many groups were represented, coming together to preserve wildlife and make sure that human appetite is gently reminded that if we eat the big blue cookie that is our planet, we don’t get another one. I’m older now. I don’t expect wild animals to be my friends just because I have friendly intentions. 

Instead I honor their wild nature and try to help, together with others, support efforts that will help provide places where wildlife can be wild for generations to come and not consumed by the out-of-control appetites of supposedly more intelligent beings. I hope that in the winter wind, the lion can hear the soft voice of wisdom encouraging it to endure for generations to come.

Best wishes.

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