Sunday, July 25, 2021

Serengeti, Season 2

(*Edited - content added, to include a personal story of my grandmother's decision with cancer)

We spend a lot of time watching the Discovery Channel, but I'll be honest -  I didn't watch Season 1, or even much of Season 2, because  I get very upset with nature shows, when the camera people just sit right there and keep filming, when a lion tears into a baby animal, or the baby animal gets swept away by a flood or something, and they just excuse themselves from even attempting to do anything and continuing to film, by saying:  "Oh, that's nature, it goes on anyway and keeps the balance."

Okay - but seriously, how can you just sit there and keep filming it, and at least not try to do something?

I mean, it's like finding a baby bird on the ground and filming it with your iPhone and then walking away, sharing your video with everyone for attention, but also saying "*shrugs* Oh well, that's nature" - rather than trying to help save it (or if you can't, find someone who can)?

So I get very upset and it hangs on me for days, with those scenes, so I try not to watch them.  I saw one recently on BBC were some baby elephants were washed away in a flood and I actually dreamed about it, it really bothered me for days.

But some film crew just sat there and kept filming it :(

Now, you might say to yourself, "What kind of sociopath or psychopath does that?"

Well, unfortunately, the answer is, they're not necessarily a sociopath or psychopath - the answer may simply be the fact that they're human, which brings me closer to my point, a little further below :(

But first, the episode of Serengeti that I saw was about a particular herd of elephants, led by dominant male, Bakari, and new mom, Nalla, who just had a new a baby, after having baby Tembo in the first season. 

The baby scampers ahead, following a bird - SO cute.

In a flash, big brother Tembo is actually the first to notice the lions up ahead in the grass - even before parents Bakari and Nalla notice - and Temba is the one who ends up saving his baby brother's life, despite his prior jealousy, by fighting off the lions :)

Father Bakhari comes close, ready to step in as backup, but Tembo had it covered - while Mother Nalla summons the rest of herd to surround the baby in the typical star formation, with the baby in the center. 

Did anyone blame the parents, like humans often do?

No - because we know that things can happen in a flash, especially in the wild - parents are trying to take care of everyone in the herd at once - and predators are waiting for the one moment where parents are distracted, to pounce.

Regardless, my point is that known behavior of herd elephants is to try to save everyone, even if they don't always get along, and regardless of their role in the herd.

In fact, they've even been known to rescue baby elephants from other herds from predators or floods.  

Also, the entire herd celebrates new babies being born and helps raise the babies along with the parents, stepping in only when mom and dad are busy.

If they lose one member, they grieve for days, and try to console the mother.

Interestingly, also a unique elephant behavior, the oldest members, sensing they are near death, exchange goodbyes with the herd, then wander off to the elephant graveyard to die, so as not to be a burden the herd :(

Now, that's one behavior that we humans perhaps don't want to emulate, because we are in a better position to provide for our elderly, and could and should.

However, the noble intent of the elderly elephant is to spare the herd problems and keep from slowing them down is still admirable, isn't it?

This behavior also puts an interesting "natural" wrinkle in the beliefs of the sort of black-and-white thinking, dogma-focused religious people, who believe there's no gray area, and it's always God's choice when life ends, rather than the "animal" itself, doesn't it?  

Because one thing the elephant does NOT do is go, "Well, God decides when my life ends, not me - I wonder if God will send me, and my herd,  to hell, if I wander off to die on my terms and with dignity?"

Because I'm sorry, though I'm a Christian, I'm actually not sure that God has much to do with when or how our life actually ends, because often free will is involved, which he promised not to intervene on - I wonder if he's actually just more concerned with how we lived our lives - but more on that in a minute.

Then I watched a series on BBC this morning about a pack of mongoose, trying to help mongoose parents move their babies to higher ground, to the new den burrow, to be better protected from predators.  

Though both mother and father moved the babies, there was one particularly chubby baby that the father had to carry, but struggled with, trying to climb up a rocky cliff - but the entire pack watchfully leaned over the cliff, with some even climbing down for a try if he couldn't - until Dad finally succeeded :)

Now - did anyone in the herd just walk away and say, "Oh, Dad and Mom were too weak and bad parents" or "They let the baby get too fat?"  

No - sometimes life is hard - and we all need a little help :)

Though most animal species are known to sometimes reject a baby - either because it's too sickly or the something goes wrong with the mother's instincts - elephants and mongoose predominantly do everything they can, as a group, to not only ensure the baby's survival, but support the new mother, regardless.

This started me thinking about humans and why we don't do this as a "herd" - and also, why doesn't the camera crew step in, or if they can't out of fear of their own safety, how can they just stand there and continue to film it? 

Well, first of all, the human species is known to simply have a morbid "bystander" curiosity that other species don't have - shitty, but true.

Secondly, IMO - I think it's because we are more like chimps.  Though related to all primates, we're unfortunately the most genetically like chimps.

In fact, we share 98% of our DNA not with peaceful bonobos, not  with gorillas, orangutans, or marmoset - but with chimps.

Which means, though chimps are sometimes cute and cuddly, chimps can also be extremely aggressive, even sometimes committing murderer, sometimes even senselessly.

In fact, unlike other primates, chimps have been known to steal a baby from their own group and kill it - both male and female - and we don't always know why.  

Sometimes it's a jealous female without a baby yet, sometimes it's a male leader, just to prove his dominance, and sometimes they even eat the child, and we have no idea why - just because that particular dominant chimp is an aggressive a-hole bully, doing it just because he can.

And chimps are about taking territory rather than sharing it or coexisting peacefully with others - everything is mine-mine-mine and obtaining power.

In fact, chimps are the only other species than humans known to actually wage war - most famously, two rival factions of chimps actually waged a 4-year civil war against each other, in Tanzania, from 1974 to 1978.

What was the civil war over?  

Efforts to expand their rule and territory, of course.  

The Kasakela faction was trying to take over and expand their territory.

Though the Kasakela won, successfully killing all males of the Kahama faction, the Kahama were ultimately checked and repelled by a Northern group of chimpanzees. 

Now - chimps are extremely intelligent, as are closely related humans - so is the problem that with higher intelligence comes more problems with others?

I don't think so.

IMO, the problem is that intelligence often gets misapplied and misused to wrongfully justify what is essentially still gratifying basal-instinct selfishness and aggressiveness.

Now - as humans, we are supposed to be the most evolved species on the planet.  

We have advanced language and communication skills, we reason with higher-level logic, and we are supposedly capable of greater empathy and compassion - and yet we often still behave like unevolved, aggressive, greedy, territorial chimps.

So you can say, "Well, it's natural selection, only the strongest survive."

Okay, but what do we mean by "strongest?" 

I think we humans often confuse "strongest" for the "meanest bully" - and do we really want only the meanest and most empathy-less bullies to survive? 

I don't think so - you would think we would be able to rise above these chimp-like instincts of protecting just ourselves and our own family, petty disagreements and jealousy, etc., and just do the right thing, either for family survival, community survival, or species survival!

In fact, I often wonder if militant anti-abortionists have ever considered that maybe if the entire "herd" rallied around her to help support her and take care of new babies, like elephants, then many mothers would never abort?

But no - they just want them not to abort,  but have absolutely no plan, and do absolutely nothing to help the mother raise the child - physically, financially, or emotionally.  

In fact, humans most often make assumptions and find bogus reasons to demonize the mother and NOT help support her. 

As for me, I used to be 100% pro-choice, public or private; however, I'm not a fan of abortion, especially publicly-funded ones, both because of what I learned happened to Native Americans with forced "eugenic" abortions (also people of color and poor women) in the 1960s and 1970s, and because I've met 2 women - out of hundreds - who repeatedly used abortion as a form of birth control. 

Those 2 women,  who'd had like 6 abortions a piece without blinking an eye, rather than just going on birth control, were enough to make me rethink my tax money going to abortions.

HOWEVER - what is also true is that I'm glad they didn't become mothers, because they definitely had some serious issues.

For most other normal women, it's an agonizing decision - the most difficult and agonizing decision of their lives. 

The largest group of women I've met, in this situation, weren't some career-focused "Femnazi" -  they simply feared the father or family would deny paternity, or that he, or even their own family, wouldn't help, and so they couldn't provide for the child - and/or - they simply felt that they weren't "good enough" to be a mother.  

(I was in that group myself, but chose to have my daughter.)

Others were career-minded and/or perhaps self-aware enough to already know they weren't very nurturing or were the selfish type, and thus rightfully knew they weren't capable of being a mother, perhaps lifelong.

(And with adoption, you just never know what kind of people you're giving the child away to, you can't predict the future or what the new family would do when trouble comes.  Does having more money automatically mean they'll be better parents?  I don't think so) 

Others they had a serious health issue, so having the child would end their life and the child would be motherless. 

Others discovered while in utero that the child was severely deformed or had a severe health issue, perhaps a heart issue, and the child likely wouldn't  survive anyway or would have to suffer and struggle lifelong.

And yes, there were 3 women that I've met that were raped or the child was the product of incest. 

Now, the first situation, the largest group I know - women who simply feared they weren't good enough or couldn't adequately provide - is a situation that can be helped with family and community support -  but we don't.  

Instead, we demonize them, further damaging their self-esteem. 

As for the latter 4 situations, these are why I still support privately funded abortions.  

Though I wouldn't and couldn't do it myself, I haven't experienced their particular situation - and I definitely don't want to force anybody to be a mother that doesn't want to be a mother - that's disastrous for the child.  

However, IMO, if we humans could behave more like elephants, or like mongoose (mongeese? lol) - and the entire community rallied to help raise the child and support the mother, putting aside their own petty jealousies and disagreements for the sake of the child, and to ensure the survival of not just their own family, but the entire community and even the entire species, rather than just themselves or their own children - then there would be less abortions, less toxic politics, and less poverty.

I also note that both Jesus and Buddha essentially gave the same message - end all suffering - period.  

There was no "Only if they're Christian" or "Only if they're Buddhist" - or "Only if they have light skin"  - or "Only if they're an immediate family member" - or "Only if it's your boss and it will benefit you in some way" - or even "Only if they're human." 

In fact, Jesus told many parables of healing and rescuing people who were not Jewish or Christian, and Buddha supposedly once spent an entire day freeing a water buffalo from mud. 

And yes, in some cases, ending suffering means having to end life, if you've done everything you can to help them survive, but they're in tremendous pain before inevitable death -  but it's on a case-by-case basis. 

If you've ever looked in the eyes of a dog or a horse that's suffering from a slow, painful death, their eyes pleading with you to let them go/end the pain, you realize the least selfish and most compassionate thing to do would be to let them go.

And in some cases, it's a human begging you to let them go.

I hope no one else ever has to experience this, because it's one of the most troubling things I've ever experienced in life, but many of us do - when someone makes the decision not to receive more cancer treatment and asks you to just let them go.

Like abortion, this decision will hang on you the rest of your life, whichever way you go.

(*Added content

For example, my 91-year-old grandmother with lung cancer could've had Cyberknife therapy to remove the small adenoma - but she refused. 

Granny: "There's a 50% chance they puncture my lung and I'll be breathless." 


Me: "But Granny - if you DON'T get it, it will grow, and then there's a 100% chance you will DEFINITELY be breathless and in pain at some point?!?

I begged her. I pleaded with her.

But she refused.

When it grew, as we knew it would, she asked to have the surgery done then, but they told her it was too late :(

At that point, she chose hospice care rather than undergoing any sort of chemo or radiation treatment.

I realized at that point - 
"If this is the way she wants to go out, on her terms and with dignity, rather than chemo weakening and sickening her further, then she should have it, despite what I think."

But to this day, I ask myself: "Could and should I have legally forced my grandmother to have more treatment, or did I do the right thing abiding by her wishes?"

Not helping is when the rest of the family is nowhere around - so they blame you for not forcing more treatment :/

Then again, people want someone to blame, when someone dies, and they say insane stuff out of grief - especially in my family.

Stuff like "This is your fault, you wanted her to die" which is, of course, absurd.

Because at that time, next to my daughter, not only did I love and trust my grandmother more than anyone else in this world, *but I had already signed off on the will/any right to her estate whatsoever early on, to prove my care for her was genuine.*

Or stuff like "You're irresponsible" or "I know you didn't do this, but you're a jinx, bad things happen when you're around." 

If you ever experience this by family - - *and you're 100% it's not true and that you genuinely have tried your best, as primary caretaker (because some people genuinely don't), when the rest of the family was either scarce or nowhere around* ...

... try to remember that these things are often said not only out of wanting someone to blame and grief - but also out of their own projected guilt, for being too busy, too selfish, or too afraid, to get their asses there and deal with it, so they could conveniently have the excuse, and the audacity, to judge and blame you for everything   :/

Because the truth is - they weren't even there or around much at all, either because they admittedly couldn't deal with it or were "too busy," so they have no effing clue, though you tried to tell them lol.

And you know dang well that had I legally forced her, they would've said I was creating legal drama unnecessarily, while she was sick,  and forcing my will onto hers/trying to control her, so you're danged if you do, danged if you don't ;)

However, I was always the scapegoat when things went wrong in my family anyway, danged if I did, danged if I didn't - so I was somewhat used to it lol.

Like for my little sister using drugs, despite the fact that I never used drugs, except for trying weed in college, which I didn't like.  The microwave didn't work, the crops failed, you name it, it was my fault lol.  :)

It certainly doesn't help the situation of being primary caretaker OR your self-esteem, to say the least - and not a single one of them ever said, "How can I help?"   - just dictated what they thought I should do, or chew me out for what they assumed I didn't do.

Half of you wonders if these people you once loved might be right about you, but the other half realizes they just want someone to blame out of their grief - and I'd become fairly used to it and I've got big enough shoulders to handle all that BS for the sake of honoring my grandmother's wishes :)

I figure God and my grandmother know the truth - and that's good enough for me - she chose not to have more treatment, and despite my daily protests, I realized it was ultimately her decision, how her life would end - on her own terms and with dignity - and I honored that decision.  

If that's wrong, God and family forgive me, but that IS what she wanted and she never changed it.

I just wish she had been a little more forthcoming about that, and some other things, with the rest of the family, when some already were trying to blame me, before she died, but not only was she  always terrified of confrontation lifelong (except with me and my grandfather), but now she was sick, so she especially didn't want to argue with anyone - she had bigger things on her mind about her life ending - things done at her funeral, and that she wanted to accomplish before she died, rather than petty family squabbles  ;)

In fact, speaking of her lifelong fear of confrontation, when we had a discussion about things she wanted to do, I helped her make a "bucket list" - some items on the list were fun things she always wanted to do or have, but other things had things she always wanted to confront, but feared.

The first thing on her bucket list was having all of the Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz dolls that McDonald's was giving away with Happy Meals, at that time (2007).

Don't you know, I ran all over the whole damn city of Lexington, visiting every McDonald's and buying about 5 Happy Meals a day, trying to get the whole collection for her lol.

The last one I couldn't get was Dorothy herself - even today, people selling the whole collection on Ebay are missing a Dorothy, she was hard to find.

Granny (wringing her hands, frantic): "Where's Dorothy? WHERE IS DOROTHY? Why can't we get Dorothy? Please find Dorothy. Please. God, please help us find Dorothy, just do this one thing? Do whatever it takes, Chrystal - just find her."

Me: "Okay, Granny, sheesh, what is the big freakin' deal with Dorothy? I'm doing my best. "

Then I realized the reason she was so frantic about Dorothy - Dorothy was her ;)

So now, I'm like, "All right - who do I have to kill to get a Dorothy doll? ;)  lol.  I'll pay somebody whatever it takes, dammit! "

So I went to the local McDonald's manager, told them the situation, and the regional McDonald's put out an APB for a Dorothy doll, God love 'em.

As it turns out, one manager in Frankfort had held onto one personally for her collection, and donated it to my grandmother for free - wasn't that awesome? :)

In fact, Granny, my little sister at her Easter visit, and I "played" with them all one day at the kitchen table, which we have on video.  (My daughter was at her Dad's for Easter Sunday, at that time :)

I'm not sure what happened to the dolls, because as I mentioned, I signed off my rights to everything, my older sister got everything - but I'm hoping she kept Dorothy, because it was so important to Granny - Dorothy WAS Granny.

Also on the list, she always wanted to confront the man that took full name credit for the hymn she wrote that was published in the Southern Baptist hymnal :(

I got his phone number at the new church where he worked  -  
and then she asked ME to confront him for her?!?

Nope - I refused -  because, as I told her, not only every time that I confronted somebody for her, it got flipped back on me (and she acted like she never asked me to) -  but this was her work, she wrote the hymn, and it doesn't count on the bucket list if she didn't do it herself, plus there's no sense of accomplishment for her, which is the point - if she wanted to confront JOHNNY DEAN on taking credit for the hymn she wrote before she died, she needed to do it herself.

She got a little mad at me and tried to guilt trip me into it, but like I said, every time I've braved up past my social anxiety to confront someone when she asked me to, she sat back and acted like she didn't ask, and I'm left holding the bag of crap - AND - it was her bucket list - there's be no sense of accomplishment for her if she didn't do this herself ;)

But she got over it - however, I'm sorry to say, she was unable to bring herself to confront him  - she was that terrified of confrontation (except with me and my grandfather).

However, no worries about the things said to me by my family, at that time and in general - since we unfortunately are NOT elephants, I've found my life is so much better, since I distanced myself from my toxic, extremely dysfunctional,  band-of-unevolved-chimps family, years ago :)

Because if you're the family scapegoat anyway,  family death or not - it's best to just walk away and let them think whatever, rather than continue to defend yourself, which always gets flipped back on you into "attacking" them anyway lol - plus your self-esteem will never improve in that environment.  

Eventually, they'll either find a new scapegoat or continue to find new and impossible ways to blame you for problems, even though you haven't been around for years, beyond the point of reason and rationality, which actually reveals more about themselves and their mental health, than you or yours, anyway  ;)

Take the good memories with you and leave the rest behind :)

But back to my point,  sometimes with animals, and always with humans -  we hold onto them out of our own selfish need to keep them there for ourselves, despite even their own stated wishes -  or out of some misguided sense of how we imagine God works and what he will intervene on, when it comes to human life, though we have so many examples that he actually doesn't usually step in and intervene much to save human life at all - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist.

In fact, most of our saints and disciples in the bible suffered horrible deaths.

Which makes me wonder if our birth and death aren't as important to God as how we lived our lives when alive.

I also wonder if the end of life for someone or something else, and the decisions we made, actually wasn't actually a spiritual test more for the people around them, then the person themselves, since death is inevitable anyway.

Regardless, both Christ and Buddha said to end all suffering where you can - period.

That's a mantra I try, often failing, to live by :)

Just my opinion ... 

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