Friday, May 23, 2008

The Elephant In The Room

Both the Asian and African Elephants hold prominent positions on The Wildlife Endangered Species List, due largely to the fact that their population has been reduced by up to 50% over just the last three generations. That’s an enormous and disproportionate loss of these noble and magnificent creatures. It is far beyond the normal attrition rate that one would expect of any population of animals, let alone such a dominant and powerful creature as the elephant. The African male weighs up to 6 tons (12,000 lbs.), and the Asian up to about 5 tons, or 10,000 lbs. Both stand about 10 feet high at the shoulders, and the Asian elephant can measure out to about 20 feet in length. No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of elephant.

But I want to say that the elephant population is not really endangered. It has not really been reduced by 50%. That’s just a myth. True, we can’t find half the herd, but that’s because they’ve split up and taken up residence in the living rooms of private homes all across the world, and the U.S. in particular. There seems to be an elephant now in almost every room. We each have our own. And we seem to covet their presence in our lives.

The term “Elephant In The Room” generally refers to some family problem or controversial issue that’s obviously present, but which everyone ignores or avoids mentioning, usually because it’s politically or socially incorrect, or embarrassing. Or because it would just open up another ‘can of worms’. Oh by the way, worms have become a prominent member on the Endangered Species List as well, but they’re not actually missing either. Just packed away in all those cans nobody ever really wants to open.

I was recently discussing a personal matter with someone I love. This person was describing a particular aspect of a relationship that holds great importance and prominence in their life, a relationship that should rise above fear, disingenuousness, discomfort, dishonesty and silence. But it doesn’t. And it doesn’t because of one party’s reluctance to discuss an issue that has ultimately become ‘an elephant in the room’. There was no elephant in the room before there was an issue, but whenever an issue arises in one’s life that needs to be addressed forthrightly, and honestly, and it is not, it quickly becomes the elephant in the room. That elephant will take up residence there until the matter is dealt with. Having a six-ton reminder in full view, at all times, is not an easy matter to ignore. But people do it, and they have become practiced and proficient at it. It breaks down trust, and it affects every other aspect of a relationship. Take my word for it, when there’s an elephant in the living room it doesn’t go away just because you’ve moved the conversation to another part of the house. You’re still going to hear it, smell it, and have to walk by it on a pretty regular basis until you get the damn thing out of your living room.

Here’s a novel thought. Why don’t we get all of the elephants out of our houses, and out of our lives, once and for all. If the elephant is gone then we can stop pretending that it isn’t there because, hey, it actually won’t be.
Let’s get them back off the Endangered Species List. Let them return to the herd, where they belong, so they can all be counted.

Doesn’t that sound like a better way to live?
Oh yeah, and let’s open up all those cans of worms
and let them go as well.