Horses, Honey Badgers, and Hope

May 1st, 2014 By Steven Knope, MD

During challenging times in American history, we the people have used various strategies to get a respite from the problems of our day.  Sometimes we become so disgruntled by human behavior that we look to animals instead of people for inspiration. I suspect that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is that animals cannot talk. Animals are not capable of lying to us. Animals are more pure. They just do what they were born to do.

SecretariatOne of the greatest examples of our country turning its attention to an extraordinary animal for inspiration was the famous Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. In 1973, America was reeling from Watergate and Vietnam. The country had lost faith in its leaders. And as George Plimpton said of Secretariat, “He was the only honest thing in the country at the time. He just ran, because he loved running.”

On June 9, 1973 Secretariat gave the American people a truly extraordinary gift, an emotional experience which temporarily lifted us out of the darkness – even for those of us who had never paid any attention to a horse race in our lives.  After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by a stunning 31 lengths. Whether they were at Belmont in person to witness this event, or whether they watched on their TV sets, the near universal response of people who saw this event was to weep. And if you watch this video clip you will see why.

The Honey Badger: If we fast forward 4 decades to 2014, we are again faced with a divided and troubled country. We have been lied to and disappointed by our leaders. Our economy is sluggish. We’ve been embroiled in two wars over the past decade. Many have lost faith in our country. And though there is no super horse to grab our attention, the internet has emerged as a new lens through which to view another amazing animal:  The Honey Badger.

The Honey Badger has been described as the most bad ass animal on the planet. And if you’ve been living underground for the past 5 years and have never heard of this animal, it is time to get up to speed.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the first Honey Badger video in my quest to learn more about this creature. Since then, this 3 minute video has gone viral and has been viewed by over 67-million people. I will warn you that the language in this narration of the Honey Badger is more than a little colorful, but life is different today than it was during the time of Secretariat.

Honey_badgerHis Courage: The Honey Badger is absolutely fearless. Honey Badgers have been known to fend off as many as 7 lions to protect their kill. They get 25% of their food from eating venomous snakes, after they have done battle with these deadly serpents. Africanized bees are no match for the Honey Badger and they will endure relentless stinging to get their little paws on some larvae from an active hive.

Not Just a Pretty Face: If you’ve already seen the original Honey Badger video, you may think that you know all there is to know about this animal.  However, the Honey Badger is not merely brave; he is extraordinarily intelligent. His ability to problem solve and outwit a human being is remarkable, as can be seen in this recent BBC documentary.

The Antidote to Too Much Talk: Human beings often hold themselves up as God’s greatest creation. Our use of complex language and communication skills allow us to accomplish great things. However, our ability to use words also means that we have the ability to misuse words, so that we have become adept at lying, deceiving, and distorting reality to get what we want.

So in this spirit of nonverbal purity, I will stop talking.  Instead of using more words, I will direct you to the inspirational animals that have been captured on video. If you don’t have time to watch these clips now, keep them on file. When you have had a particularly frustrating day with Homo sapiens, I recommend that you divert your attention to the animal world. I think you will find the combination of action and silence to be quite refreshing.

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