Lessons From The Last Rhino

We lost the last male Northern White Rhino from our sector of the multiverse, our current, troubled reality. It happened this week, what will most likely be the final obstacle to the extinction of his species. There are only two females left and they haven’t been able to carry pregnancies to term.

And with his death there was no resulting thunderclap from a vengeful God striking down those who hunted the Northern White Rhino into a memory. There was no quake as Mother Earth trembled at the thoughtlessness and cruelty of her “highest” species of ape, whose selfishness eradicated one of her more majestic creatures, apes who are apparently so incapable and unwilling to take care of one another that they cannot be bothered to take care of their surroundings, their habitat that doesn’t just belong to them.

Instead of cataclysm, the world kept on turning as it always has. All over the planet callous and/or cruel men continued to do callous and/or cruel things leaving the rest of us to try to fathom how such things could be accomplished with such ease. Callous and/or cruel men have and continue to shape human history despite the courage of those who rose to stop them.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve spent much time contemplating my own history, and my actions. I’ve no doubt been callous in the past. It is my genuine hope that I have never been cruel, and yet the condition is subjective, and I am entirely aware that I’ve made plenty of mistakes. At the minimum, many times, I could have done far better. I could have been better.

I am, as we are each of us, a work in progress. Realizing that one has made mistakes and then taking steps to learn from them seems to be a core tenet of both maturity and responsibility.  To be a better version of myself from one day to the next has been and continues to be my goal since I exited the so-called indestructibility of youth. Nobility has become a priority. I believe that if we all sought nobility in character and mind, our troubled reality would be far less so.

I watched the very well-made miniseries, Godless (Netflix), this last few weeks. While not unfamiliar moral territory for a Western, the theme of bravery and nobility versus callousness and cruelty was still both fresh and highly relevant. In it, a group of evil, callous and cruel men marauds across New Mexico and it is a group of women who are the pillars of bravery, nobility and virtue. The male protagonists are broken in their own ways, imperfect, and play catch-up the entire time due to circumstance or pride.  

As I look at the news cycle, increasingly I find it critical for my fellow males to look inwards. Males, young and old, are in crisis. Women are generally not forcing themselves on aspiring actresses, mailing package bombs to strangers, stalking the hallways of schools shooting children, using chemical weapons on innocents, eradicating species via the attempt to supply the dangerously deluded with ivory snake-oil or threatening the survival of all species with the prospect of nuclear war. Men and women are both capable of callousness and cruelty, and many women are also imperfect, but we men and boys are far more damaging in our expressions of such.

To quote a very stirring and poignant piece written by Michael Ian Black recently: “To be clear, most men will never turn violent. Most men will turn out fine. Most will learn to navigate the deep waters of their feelings without ever engaging in any form of destruction. Most will grow up to be kind. But many will not.”

My brothers, the road to healing starts with being honest with ourselves, recognizing when we need help, reaching out for it without fear of stigma, and finding healthy ways to satisfy our instincts to fight, fornicate, hunt, conquer and howl wildly at the moon.

I’ll end this stressing the following: my thanks to the brave group of men who protected Sudan, the male Northern White Rhino of his kind, until his demise. Your kindness and dedication represent the best of us and inspires me to continue to work be the same.

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