Being an elephant keeper can be messy work. If I stop anywhere on my way home, I’m treated with a wide berth and prompt service and gratuitous side eye from anyone within smelling distance. I’m not allowed into my own house without thoroughly hosing my shoes and wiping my feet on three doormats, I can’t walk on the rugs, and I have to leave any work clothes in the garage with the yard tools and trash. My car needs new floor mats. And all of those things are fine with me because of a quote from a movie I watched almost 20 years ago.
Let me preface it by saying that it’s easy to know everything about elephants. We’re all attached to our mobile phones and can do a quick internet search, and everything that has ever been learned is available for us to read.
But knowing something and experiencing something are completely different. You know what Tara looks like (she’s cleaner with longer tusks and thicker around the belly) and how much she weighs (around 8,500 pounds, depending on how much she’s eaten that day) and how tall she is (8.5 feet tall, a few inches shorter than Kelly).
What you don’t know is how puny she makes you feel when you’re standing next to her, or how she shakes the foundations of the barn with a good morning rumble, how aloof she acts when the mood strikes, or how much of a clown she suddenly becomes if somebody so much as touches the storage bin full of wheat bran. Tara will do anything for some wheat bran.
Such things aren’t facts that you can look up on your phone; they’re things you need to come inside to experience.
The movie I mentioned was about a genius kid who knew too much and experienced too little, and the quote was this:
“I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel.”
Keeper I, Mammals