My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Big Game Hunting, Suburban-Style

Photo by Kenneth Stansell/USFWS
A few months ago, my 14-year-old son told me the father of one of his classmates was a big game hunter.

"He shot a giraffe and has it in his garage," my son said matter-of-factly.

I burst out laughing, explaining to my poor, gullible son that his classmate was pulling his leg. My son insisted, however, and we left the conversation with him shaking his head that I wouldn't believe his story, and me pitying him that he would.

Today, I went over to the classmate's house for a school function, and couldn't help but notice the pelts and taxidermied heads of deer on a number of walls.

"That one's a wildebeast," explained my hostess, pointing out a strange head that bore horns just like the beast character in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Over cookies and coffee, my gracious hostess mentioned her husband's passion for hunting, saying one of his biggest animals hunted was even now in their garage, en route to their Colorado cabin for hanging.

"Oh? And what is that?"

"A giraffe," replied the lady, mother of six, and a beautifully dressed blonde with a home expressing a warm, eclectic, country feel.

We marched out to the garage, and there, in a box at least twelve feet long, lay a taxidermic giraffe, from the torso up. The effect this had on me, munching my chocolate chip cookie after a little school function, then reaching out to touch the strangely oily hairs of this majestic animal, would be hard to describe.

Months ago, if my son had told me a UFO had landed on his friend's house, I would have given him the same reaction I did about the giraffe's tale. Yet, the preposterous story was true!

After initial amazement, my next reaction was sadness that this creature was sacrificed for sport. But the meat was harvested and eaten by people in Africa, assured my hostess, so that makes it just a matter of custom, when you think about it. I've always loved giraffes, with their mottled hides and goofy projections atop their heads. But cows are lovable too, and we eat those! So I guess the morality of shooting even a graceful giraffe is akin to whether we should slaughter a cow.

But seeing a giraffe in a Chicago suburban garage was such a non-sequitor, it kept me chuckling all day. You know those lists people send around on FACEBOOK, that say, "25 things about me you didn't know." I could just see this dear lady's list: "1. Make mean chocolate chip cookies; 2. Am a closet oil painter; 3. Have a giraffe in my garage...

This whole scenario gets me thinking about the nature of ideas and truth. With his giraffe story, my son was speaking truth, but I couldn't accept that. How often have we discounted some truth spoken by a loved one or colleague, just because of a closed mind? Think about geniuses like Edison and prophets like John the Baptist. The outrageous, out-of-the-box messages they proclaimed were rejected by many, but were simple truth.

In fact, we often go through our days rejecting how crazy and surprising is the truth of our very existence. That our bodies are complex connections of regenerating cells? Incredible. That our very thoughts emerge as speech intelligible (in varying degrees) to others? A miracle. That our body is simply a shell for our eternal soul? Mind-boggling.

A giraffe in a garage? A good reminder that nothing about life is mundane, if seen with right eyes.