By Donny Shankle
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” - Charles Darwin
“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” - Psalm 24:1
Did you know that naked mole rats are the longest lived rodents with a life span exceeding 30 years? Scientists are even trying to discover why they’re resistant to cancer. Chameleons to me are one of natures most amazing creatures. These lizards have 360 degree vision which enable them to look in two opposite directions at once. A useful skill when you’re trying to stay alive. There’s also a lizard which lives in Central and South America which is so light and fast he can run on water earning him the name Jesus lizard. Owls are another favorite animal of mine. Did you know their flight is virtually silent? The have special feathers which break up air turbulence making them a stealthy predator. Many other smaller birds are snatched away in the night not knowing what took them before being swallowed whole.
I love watching nature shows and the ones narrated by David Attenborough are my favorite. Just a few weekends ago I was captivated by the new Blue Planet 2 series from the BBC. In that one I learned about sneaky cuttlefish males who disguise themselves as females, to bypass the watchful eyes and tentacles of the larger males, to get the female cuttlefish to mate. The giant Pacific octopus mother will not eat for 6 months as she protects her eggs and literally goes to her death ensuring they have the safest start possible.
The detail cameras are able to capture these days baffles me. And how do these camera men get so close to what their filming? I mean there is no environment they can’t go it seems. From the deep abyss to the skies above. They capture squids fighting it out in the deep and falcons striking down sparrows in mid-flight. Adding to my excitement, I have the surround sound which if you don’t have it already and you like watching nature shows like me then I highly recommend you get it. I watched a wasp eating tadpoles and it felt like it was in the room with me. The vibrations its wings created sent a shiver down my spine.
Animals fascinate me and I’m pretty sure in a former life I must have been a naturalist. During one of my recent travels, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Galapagos. There are so many different types of wildlife there like the blue footed booby with feet colored blue (hence the name) for mating purposes. The bluer the feet the better chance you have with the ladies. The giant tortoises are such surreal and beautiful creatures with a rough history. The Galapagos used to be a way station for sailors who collected their meat during circumnavigation. Noisy and smelly sea lions are everywhere. It’s like they think they own the place. I saw one relaxing at the water taxi station taking up the entire bench for himself. Then there is the iguanas, the sally light foot crabs, the penguins and the cute finches. What a great trip it was so see all these animals up close and personal and in actual nature. I’ll never forget my little breakfast buddy. A small common house finch who ate a piece of biscuit straight from the palm of my hand. It took a few attempts at first of him eating from my fingertips but eventually he hopped his way right into the palm of my hand and had breakfast with me. It was my last day on the Islands and of course I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear.
There are no second chances in the wild. Mother nature is cruel but her ways are necessary. The birds and the fish, the reptiles and the amphibians and the mammals all have to get it right the first time. There is no second chance for the gazelle who is running from the lion. She can either cut left or right and try and trip up her chaser or she can run straight and try to tire the lion enough that it’ll look elsewhere. The desire to live is strong in every creature. The baby penguins who jump into the sea for the first time need to swim with agility and speed from the onset. If not then their lives are short and they become food. That amazes me. The fact that in the wild you have no second chances. You gotta get it right. You have to get it right the first time. You have to get it right every time.
Eat, reproduce and don’t die. That’s the life of the animals and only the fittest survive. Not much different for a weightlifter who wants to be champion right? You gotta eat and you need to reproduce your best efforts in training on a consistent basis as much as your mental and physical capacity can endure. Lastly you need to not quit. Like the great white shark which a friend of mine once said so poetically to me, “You need to keep moving forward to survive.” Keep moving forward simply means be better than yesterday. Along the way you’ll stumble and feel pain but do the animals complain? Are they not taken care of by God if they remain strong and concentrate on always getting it right the first time? Men are no less and no more than all the rest of incredible creation. We too have to get it right if we want to survive. We too have to get it right if we want to keep moving forward. Else we keep making the same mistakes and remain stagnant and idle waiting for the night owl to snatch us away. We too have to show a love for the best in ourselves and a want to be part of the wild and the free.
Keep focusing on getting it right and use your individual strengths like all the rest of creation to live. Our idiosyncrasies in time end up cleverly (like the cuttlefish) adding to our identity and our spirit in the gym with time and energy remains as steadfast as the lion.