Pardon our dust–this area of your world is closed for remodeling

by Rebecca A. Watson on December 17, 2008

in attention, imagination, zoos

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo. My favorite animals were the elephants, the black panther, and of course the hippopotamus. There were some cute baby bears there, which inevitably brought out the awww-how-cute in me.

(I’m not even going to try to tangent on zoos…let’s just say it all depends on the personality of the animal. Hey, look at reality TV! I don’t fit in, but there are several humans that do.)

Seeing these animals born in captivity made me wonder what natural habitat actually means. After a few generations of grizzly bears, will they even know that they might not belong there? The zoo keepers are doing their best to mimic their natural surroundings. Except for that weird stirring of instinct, what’s to tell them that it’s not their home?

Coincidentally I finished The City of Ember during that same week. It’s a young adult novel, and the premise is this: A city was built underground to last 200 years in preparation for some disaster. During that time the instructions (given to the mayor to be passed down to each successor) were lost. Because of this, the people forgot where they came from while supplies dwindled from their limited storage. I won’t spoil the ending.

What if the world we live in isn’t really where we belong? What if we’re living in a zoo? I wonder what would happen if we woke up tomorrow and things had drastically changed: the trees had purple leaves, the sky was green, and oil and water mixed (which I heard has happened). Would people even notice?

My friend once said that if a bomb went off in the street by our office most people would just keep working. I don’t know if that’s true, but the conversation took place on a day that a port-a-pottie was swinging from a crane about three stories above the ground. No one looked at it twice.

I don’t know when we all stopped paying attention, but I’m guessing it’s about the same time we started paying $1 for a bottle of tap water. We’re all text messaging and listening to podcasts on our iPods while driving 65 mph down the freeway. (I cringe when I say I’m guilty of this — except I was doing about 80.)

What gives me hope is that I’m running into more and more people who are aware of their surroundings. And this encourages me to do the same. Often I say I want to be around anyone who will make me a better person. They fall under this category. I guess I just want to do the same for others. So let’s all keep our eyes open together: maybe pigs really can fly.

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