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Lessons From Nature

By Lynn Hong (ex-RGS)

This article was published in iTHINK magazine Issue 18

Undulating waves of brittle green interspersed with sun-weathered gold fanned out around their four-by-four. The sky blazed with the majesty of the animals which resided there. The African savannah was breathtaking but at thirteen, appreciating this scenic Eden was not Ethan’s forte.

“Yeah, amazing. It’s exactly like the postcard back home…” Ethan huffed. Timothy just barely heard his twin over their parents’ clicking cameras. The pictures were stunning, and stunningly devoid of any animals. The majestic wildlife were, after all, supposed to be the stars of the show. “Stars which have stage-fright apparently,” Ethan grumbled.

Another fifteen minutes later, just as Ethan fired a spit-wad at his sleeping brother, a cry of “Loo-” went up before being quickly stifled. The car halted. Timothy fumbled in his pocket for his spectacles, and that indiscriminate blob turned into a gazelle when he slipped them on. I suppose all those years of reading Dickens under the covers was bound to have an effect on my vision, he mused as his eyes adjusted to its new-found clarity.

Yes, it was a gazelle - with elegantly curved horns and a glossy hazel coat, moving with the familiar grace of a well-seasoned athlete. Having always been more of a bookworm, Timothy could only hold his breath in awe at the sight of this beautiful animal. He had always been the quieter one, overshadowed by his charismatic, sometimes domineering, brother. He felt a connection with the gazelle, it being overlooked in favour of the bigger, flashier animals there.

The gazelle turned his way, their eyes meeting for a fraction of a second.

“Unless it’s a lion, I’m not going over there,” Ethan drawled. How could two people with totally different personalities be twins?

Then, the mighty roar of the king of beasts cleaved through the air. It was a primal sound, sending tremors through their very core. Ethan scrambled to the window. It tore through the long stalks of grass, muscles rippling with lethal power. It gained steadily on the gazelle.

Ethan willed the lion on, subconsciously mirroring its feral snarl. He watched as the gazelle made a last-ditch attempt, twisting and turning in the dance of death.

Timothy’s heart rose and fell with that of the poor, beautiful beast. His pain-filled eyes followed the panic-stricken gazelle as it twirled and cantered in this maestro’s last performance. Its desperate eye met his. The ground ran red.

He squeezed his eyes shut as the curtain fell. Their mother pulled the twins away from the window. Ethan had to be dragged off protesting. Timothy turned away with an aching heart.

Thunder rumbled. Rain pelted the earth. Those scenes replayed in Timothy’s mind until he could no longer ignore them. A wave of cruel enlightenment crashed over him. No matter how virtuous or skilful someone is, without brute strength, all that counted for nothing. All his knowledge, all the gazelle’s grace – nothing at all. Ethan’s domineering streak, the lion’s killer instinct – those were the only things that mattered. The strong survive, the weak die and that was all there was, he thought to himself, his rose-tinted lenses shattered forever.

The car made for home base, the rumbling engine almost drowning out Ethan’s excited chatter, “The lion went straight for the jugular! The strong survive, the weak die…”

Timothy looked out the window for one last glimpse. That patch of ground stood out, garishly red.

However, something was happening. The maroon became lighter, gently fading as the rain’s healing touch offered it solace. His world was whole again as sorrow found closure and the earth was given a clean slate, a second chance at the beauty of life. The rain cleared the mist, showing him the world not through rose-tinted glasses but in all its vivid colour. The blacks and greys did seem darker, but the reds and yellows also seemed brighter.

The rain slowly petered out, revealing a rainbow.

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