I’ve been to the zoo as a child and as a dad. I went recently as a grandfather, and it was still a well of wonderment for the grandchildren, but I saw it differently than I did on my previous tours.
It began with me taking unreasonable umbrage at an entrance sign celebrating my complicity in the great endeavor of the place. But my duplicity was real and it sat like a gorilla on my back all day.
Tried as I may, I couldn’t see the animals without the walls, the bars, the cages and the nettings getting in the way, disturbing my peace, reminding me of my limitations, and hinting that the animals were more aware of their prisons than people are of theirs.
I could blame my contrarian thoughts on old age and the changes it sometimes engendered–the grumpiness, the feeling that you are boxed in no matter how far and wide you roam, and the dawning realization that when it is all said and done, one’s life is merely a reel of repeated rituals.
But I can’t blame my changing view of the zoo on old age.
And I hesitate to blame it on anything else, for that matter, since I’ve lived long enough to know that rationalizing one’s viewpoint is often self-righteous legitimization of one’s misunderstanding.