However, given their mental and emotional chops and awareness of mortality especially, who is to say that they don’t have some sense of the metaphysical? The central facts and mysteries of their existence, about which they clearly have deep feelings, are the same as ours: death and love, life and new life, the chasm between the way things ought to be and how they really are. Alas, we can’t begin to know what elephants make of such matters, but there is something weird and refreshing about considering these basic existential questions from an intelligent animal’s imagined point of view. No revelation, no tradition. Just attention to the way the world goes by and simple wonder at it, with all of the same questions that force themselves on us raw and fresh and perpetually unsolved in moments of crisis or clarity. An elephant may only have dim intimations of them, but after all, so do we; envisioning a more limited but still searching perspective can renew our appreciation that we too see through a glass darkly.
Elephants figure in some way in a number of religions, more centrally in areas of the world where they are native. The elephant is considered a totem (sacred ancestor) in many African cultures. The Koran contains a Chapter of the Elephant, concerning how even the mightiest elephant-laced army was felled by a flock of birds and the will of Allah. Various Christian writings take the elephant’s graceful and majestic nature as symbolic of the virtues or a testament to divine glory. One of the Sanskrit Jataka Tales tells of the Buddha’s previous life as an elephant king, and Buddhists believe that white elephants are bodhisattvas (enlightened beings), or at least their mounts. Ganesh, the elephant-headed Lord of Beginnings and Obstacles, is among the most celebrated deities in the teeming Hindu universe. According to legend, Ganesh is the son of Shiva the Destroyer and his consort Parvati, who one day appointed her son to stand guard outside the door while she bathed. Due to a misunderstanding at the threshold, Shiva sliced off his own son’s head, and in order to appease the horrified Parvati, replaced it with the head of a passing elephant. A sweeter variant has it that the famously amorous Shiva and Parvati, observing a tender elephant couple in the forest and wishing to partake in this new mystery of love, turned themselves into elephants for a night, and from this union Ganesh was born.
Using memories of maternal love and the archetype of the divine child as the basis for much of his tender expression, Ohno frequently reduced his audience to tears. Traversing the stage in a hypnotic reverie, he would gesture skyward with his long, curling hands. He was a masterful and exacting improviser, and performed in schools, gardens and hospitals, as well as avant-garde institutions around the world.
The world needs God. The world needs miracles in time of need (John 2:1-11). The world needs God to destroy the barriers that divide groups of people (Galatians 3:28). The world needs examples of forgiveness in the face of death and murder (Acts 7:59-60), because human power alone cannot accomplish such a thing. The world needs an alternative to war and hatred and killing (1 Corinthians 13). The world needs the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21). The world needs the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31). The world needs victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). The world needs the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:36-39).
Ohno shed all social constructs in pursuit of essence, believing that "form comes by itself" wherever there is spiritual presence. His revelations of love, pain and ghostly innocence were conveyed with the intuition of a great elder.
Myself moving forward then and now and forever,
Gathering and showing more always and with velocity,
Infinite and omnigenous, and the like of these among them,
Not too exclusive toward the reachers of my remembrancers,
Picking out here one that I love, and now go with him on brotherly terms.
Elephants even react to carved ivory, long divorced from the original remains and altered and handled extensively. Poole writes of a woman who came to visit Tsavo National Park wearing ivory bracelets: as an elephant approached, the park warden cautioned her to hide them behind her back; but when the elephant arrived, she reached around behind the woman and contemplatively perused the bracelets with her trunk. Poole then had a friend stage a repeat performance later, and the same thing happened. Conversely, elephants have also been observed to become quiet and pensive in an area where relatives died, even years ago, although the bones have long been removed.
In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder'd bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.
Antony and the Johnsons will release their five track EP “Thank You For Your Love” on August 24th via Secretly Canadian. The title-track is the lead single from the forthcoming album “Swanlights” also being released by Rough Trade on October 11th and Secretly Canadian on October 12. The album is now available for pre-order including bundles consisting of the full length CD and EP, vinyl LP and EP, and book with CD and EP will be available for sale on August 4th. Those who purchase the bundles will instantly receive an advance download of the EP. The pre-order is up .
Even bare, bleached old elephant bones will stop a group if they have not seen them before. It is so predictable that filmmakers have been able to get shots of elephants inspecting skeletons by bringing the bones from one place and putting them in a new spot near an elephant pathway or a water hole. Inevitably the living elephants will feel and move the bones around, sometimes picking them up and carrying them away for quite some distance before dropping them. It is a haunting and touching sight and I have no idea why they do it.
1 - Everything Is New
2 - The Great White Ocean
3 - Ghost
4 - I'm In Love
5 - Violetta
6 - Swanlights
7 - The Spirit Was Gone
8 - Thank You For Your Love
9 - Flétta
10 - Salt Silver Oxygen
11 - Christina's Farm
(Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so,
Only what nobody denies is so.)
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain,
I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps,
And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman,
And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other,
And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
And until one and all shall delight us, and we them.