Gurdjieff International Review

Look a Lion in the Eye

Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.   –Albert Einstein

Kathryn Hulme

W

e had never managed to get near the wildebeest in the Serengeti, but here in Ngorongoro they not only paraded for us but, when they stopped to graze, they even posed now and again, lifting their bristly muzzles to stare at us while they chewed....

The realization of being in a world apart increased the farther we roamed over the crater floor. The encircling walls take on a delicate shade of blue as you come toward the middle of this natural preserve. The volcanoes of the crater highlands loom up behind these walls and cause them to look much lower than two thousand feet—no more, in fact, than a circle broadly blue-penciled around the horizon, and this magic circle encloses all living things there—birds, beasts, and humans—in a place of trustful peace that is palpable, like velvet to the touch. No animal lowered its horns or reared up in alarm at our approach. All stood their ground and examined us in a trance of reflective curiosity, as if taking the measure of a familiar species known to be harmless. Afterward, they went on with their grazing or bone-gnawing as if we weren’t there at all. Even the skittish and prancing gazelles—Thompson’s, Grant’s, and impala—gave us that motionless moment of intensive scrutiny, their dark eyes set like polished gems in white circles or lateral facial stripes.

Luke [our driver] drove with angelic legato, easing us up to herds of wildebeest and zebra, then letting his motor die soundlessly while we stared back at the staring animals. We were so moved by their seeming trust in us, we were unable to speak and reluctant to break the spell by aiming a camera at them. Somewhere in the back of my mind lay a plausible theory of why the animals looked at us with such peculiar intensity. It was a formulation from long ago and far away. I made no effort to reach for it, knowing it would drift to the surface in its own time.

A troop of zebra drinking from a stream gave us close-ups of their decorative backsides after a long, speculative inspection face to face. A lioness studied us with her yellow eyes, then called her five cubs out of the riverine shrubbery and led them single file across our track out to the open plain. A few magic miles later, we came upon a two-thousand-pound rhinoceros with a calf at her side, both browsing on a low shrub. The huge female let us come up to within some thirty feet, then she swung about and faced us, standing stock-still on her stumpy legs, her nose horn projecting forward and up from between her small eyes buried in baggy folds.